Saturday, June 18, 2016

June 18, 2016


June afternoon - the sun still
sitting there. It will be at least
3 more hours before it settles
down for a long dark night rest.

June afternoon - runners in
the park - mothers pushing
carriages of ice cream
searching children - looking.

June afternoon - in my bus
wanting home - but I still have
an hour to go - might as well
see poetry or write this one.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Friday, June 17, 2016



The title of my homily for this 11th Friday in Ordinary Time is, “The Eyes Are the Windows to the Soul.”

I wondered who said that, so I looked it  up on line. I found out that different commentators are not sure just who said that first - but it’s a proverb in various languages.


Some even think it’s from Jesus’ words in today’s gospel [Matthew 6: 19 -23] when here in the Sermon on the Mount he talks about  “The lamp of the body is the eye.”

Then Jesus talks about that metaphor: lights on or lights off.

At night while walking the dog or driving up the street or road where we live,  we can see windows with lights on within and where lights are out.

If we look into our own eyes we can ask  whether we are filled with light or if we’re filled with darkness. 

Looking at people's eyes, sometimes we spot sparkle; sometimes we see sadness.

We’ve all been to see an eye doctor now and then.

We enter a quiet room. The eye doctor looks deep into our eyes and sees so much in the light. She or he sees veins, cataracts developing, the pupil, and so much more.

Researchers like to point out that looking into an eye we can move deeper and deeper into our center - or another’s - just by studying the human eye.

The other day in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talked about going into our inner room to pray - to become quiet - silent - and see about our health: spiritual, mental, and physical.

It’s good to close our eyes in prayer - and go within. It’s good to take an honest and humble look at our within.


Without admitting it, we often look at the body -  the eyes, the skin, the face of the other person - to try to get a read on how they are doing today - what they are off on today.

We long for communion - holy communion - communication - connection with God - with Christ - with each other.

The eyes are the windows to the soul.

Every married couple should regularly stop and stare in the window of the other’s eyes and ask. “How’s it going on in there?


A great way to read the scriptures is to meet a character on its pages.  Then look them in the eye. Have a conversation with that person. Thomas, Peter, James, John, who are you? What was it like to be with Jesus?

Take this woman named Athaliah in today’s first reading. Walk up to her and ask,  "Who are you? What was it like in 840 BC?" [2 Kings 11: 1-4, 9-18, 20]

Ask her: "Were you the daughter of Ahab? Was Jezebel your mother? Or were you the sister of Ahab."

 I noticed the commentators on the Bible don’t know for sure.

Ask, "Did you actually kill or give the command to kill 6 of your sons or grandsons? What were the nights and the sounds outside your doors like after that?"

What would it be like to get into the mind of someone who slaughtered someone - like the Orlando killer?

If we met Athaliah could or would we look her in the eye or would her face be down. Would we say, “I’ve never walked in your shoes. Who are you and what was it like? Did you kick yourself and say, ‘No wonder nobody ever named their daughter after me?’”

The eyes are the windows of the soul.

Writers and musicians like Jean Racine, Boccaccio, Mandelson, and Handle all came up with writings - or musical pieces - with Athaliah in mind.

We just heard the First Reading. It would certainly make a powerful movie.  

When they killed Athaliah it must have been a bloody mess. It is certainly a powerful scene in today's reading from 2nd Kings.

Gustave Doré, The Death of Athaliah


The title of this homily was, "The eyes are the windows of the soul."

In the Jesuit Exercises or the Cursillo, there is the so called  "3 glances of Jesus" exercise - where Jesus looks in the eyes of the Rich Young Man, Judas and Peter.

Check it out.

If Jesus looked in our eyes, what would he see?

Would he say that we are slowly gathering the treasures of heaven in our inner room or are we filled with decay?
June 17, 2016


For some reason - sometimes -
when the phone rings - we know
this phone call will change  -
everything. Fears are in the air
like dark birds on cell towers.

Are there unconscious phone calls
always ringing in our ears - worries
about mom 1,000 miles away or
a son or a daughter - yes we’ve
been worrying about them for years.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Thursday, June 16, 2016

June 16, 2016


Coins falling, slipping, dropping -
from one’s hands - sound so
different when they fall on wood,
carpet, red brick, dirt, or water.

God, Woman, You slipped out of my hand,
out of my life, and I didn’t even hear
You go - Your image on my soul, nor
do I hear You - still searching for me.

Cf. Luke 15: 8-1
© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

WHO  AM  I, 


The title of my homily for this 11 Wednesday in Ordinary Time is, “Who Am I When Nobody’s Looking?”

Who am I, when I am alone?

I think Jesus did a lot of thinking about this question.

Was it because he didn’t start his public life, till he was around 30?

Was it because he saw too much public posturing by the Pharisees and the Scribes, etc, etc. etc.

The scribes could write. They had the degrees on their walls.

The Pharisees were the religious purists.

When it comes to worship and religion, Jesus saw some tricky possible places where we can trip up. We heard about them in today’s gospel - and we hear about them at the beginning of every Lent.


For example, he must have seen a lot of people praying to be seen praying. He said, “They are already getting their reward.”

For example, he must have seen lots of people putting money in the poor box - with loud coins or much fanfare.  Those who emptied out the poor box must have known human nature and how to get more coins and cash.

For example, he must have heard lots of folks bragging about their fasting - just as everyone on a diet - seems to let us know they are on a diet.

In other words, don’t toot your own horn.

Folks who toot their own horn must know the old saying, “If you don’t toot your own horn, your own horn goes untooted.”


Jesus discovered somewhere along the line the importance of one’s inner room, one’s inner temple, one’s inner sanctuary.

The title of my homily is, “Who Am I When Nobody’s Looking?”

When we are all alone, that’s the real me.

Who am I when I am alone?

We spend all our waking hours talking to ourselves.  Sometimes we don’t listen to what we are talking to ourselves about.

Sometimes we blot out those sounds with babble, with words, with prayers, and never stop to listen to ourselves as well as to our God.

Sometimes we keep talking so we don’t have to listen to God who surrounds us.

I was stationed in another diocese once and I often heard that when the bishop comes to a rectory, he does all the talking. I was there when he finally visited our place. Sure enough, he sat at the head of the table and controlled the whole conversation.

I wondered if he ever heard that everyone said behind his back he didn’t know how to listen.

In silence, in our inner room, that’s where we can meet the real God -  as well as the real me.


Let me tell you about a favorite moment in my life. It was the early 1990’s and I was with our novices on a 3 day workshop. It was midnight and I was sitting in the corner in the back bench of a chapel in a retreat house.

It was dark and I was simply sitting in the dark in prayer.

The door opened.

“Uh oh!” I thought.

But whoever it was, the person didn’t turn the lights on.  So I didn’t know if the person was male or female, young or old.

The person walked carefully to the front of the chapel.

I kept quiet - so as not to scare the person.

The person sat down on the other side of the altar. I could tell that by the red tabernacle candle.

I heard the person open something. Click. Click. And I could then tell it was a guitar coming out of a guitar case. The person then began to sing a love song in prayer to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

It was obviously a young woman - a novice - in one of the religious orders of nuns - on the novice program we were attending.

She finished. She put the guitar back in the case and click, click, closed it.

I remained absolutely quiet and still.

After about 10 minutes of prayer I presume, she got up and walked out.

I was just privy to a sacred moment in another person’s life.

Did she do this every night?

What ever happened to that young lady? Did she become a nun?


One of my favorite quotes is from William Sloan Coffin -  - who was Senior Minister at the Riverside Church in New York City.  When asked if he enjoyed being a minister, he said, “Of course. It’s an honor being invited into the secret garden of another person.”

Obviously being a priest all these years and having had that experience all these years, I would like that comment.

It’s good to go into the secret garden of one’s soul. It’s good to go into the dark chapel - the dark inner room - of oneself and to sing and pray and be with oneself and with the Lord.  

The more we do that, the more we get to know who we are as well as who God is. Amen.
June 15, 2016


Study for a Figure at the Base
of a Crucifixion by Francis Bacon


God,  at times,  I am all thirst.
I am hunger, want, desire, fire,
drought, itch, cry, complaint.
And by accident or coincidence,
I spot your dry mouth open on
the cross blurting out, “You thirst?
I thirst? Where have you been?”

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Tuesday, June 14, 2016



The title of my homily for this 11th Tuesday in Ordinary Time is, “Karma.”

When was the last time you heard someone use the term, “KARMA”?  Sometimes it just slipped its way into a conversation - like various other foreign phrases slip their way into our talking with each other - like “Déjà vu” or  “Hasta luego”.

The word “karma” - whatever karma is - hit me when I read today’s readings - as well as something from Sunday’s first reading that I didn’t preach about.

Let me first mention a few comments about the Sunday comment. It’s relevant to today’s readings. Nathan the prophet shows up at David’s house and says to him, “The sword shall never depart from your house….”

It’s like saying a deadly virus is in your computer and you’re not going to be able to get rid of it.

Here’s the context for Nathan’s comment to David, “You have cut down Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you took his wife as your own, and him you killed with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah to be your wife.”

Eastern religions - Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism - along with their different branches and groups would say to David: “Expect bad karma to continue because you have done some bad things here.”

We’re very familiar with Jesus’ words from Matthew 26:52, “Those who live by the sword die by the sword.”

We’ve also heard, “What goes around comes around.”

We’ve also heard Paul’s words from Galatians 6: 7, “We reap what we sow.”

Way before Paul, the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad from way back in the 7th Century BC, has someone saying what Paul said,

Now as someone is like this or like that,
according as he acts and according as he behaves, so will he be;
a person of good acts will become good, a person of bad acts, bad;
he becomes pure by pure deeds, bad by bad deeds;

And here they say that a person consists of desires,
and as is his desire, so is his will;
and as is his will, so is his deed;
and whatever deed he does, that he will reap.

In other words, if you plant watermelon seeds, you get watermelons. Plant good deeds, you’ll  get good results.

We become what we plant.
We become where we stay.
We become what we think.
We become what we desire.
We become what we do.
We become what we eat.
We become what TV channel we watch for news.

If you doubt that last one, you have listened to others lately.


We are who we are - because of the atmosphere and attitudes in the air where we are staying and breathing in.

For me, this is the basic meaning of karma - for starters.

But I’m more than me, so I spent about 2 hours of time last night reading up on what karma means,  so as to have a basic thought for the day in this homily.

Let me also say it’s quite simple and quite complicated as well.

As I thought about it, when people who are not Buddhists or Hindu or Jainists, use the word “karma”, I think they are simply saying, “When we feel everything is going right, that’s good karma.  When you feel everything is going wrong, that’s bad karma.”

Eastern religions - like all religions -  have thought forever about why people are doing well and why some people are all messed up.

Why do good things happen to good people and why do bad things happen to bad people?

But also: why do bad things happen to good people and why do good things happened to bad people?

Sound familiar?

Didn’t Jesus say in today’s gospel, “… your heavenly Father makes the sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust”?

Jesus saw homes where violence bred violence - but the sun and the rain fall on their roofs like every house on the street.

So how does this good stuff and bad stuff happen anyhow?

Answer: some Eastern teachers say it could be from someone else’s life and we inherited it - in our reincarnation.

But if that’s true, what about free will and free choice - and how do we know if that’s coming from us or from some life we inherited?

We know we can’t tell the judge, “The Devil made me do it.”

Nor can we tell the judge, “It wasn’t me, it was something the last person I was, did and I am simply stuck in their bad karma.”

As I said, “This can get complicated.”

Christianity won’t accept this reincarnation idea that we were someone else in an earlier life. Christianity won’t accept that we die and then become someone else in our next life.

Yet - apart from the reincarnation teaching - I sense that  there is something about family sins - as well as goodness hanging around in people - into the next generation.

Bad example - good example - goodness - evil - continues - echoes in us.

Did you notice the subtle comment in today’s first reading? Jezebel and her husband Ahab the King lived by the sword  - but only Jezebel dies a violent death. Dogs bit into her dying body and licked her blood as it spread on the stone street where her body landed after being pushed out the window.[Cf. 2 Kings 9:33.] But Ahab - like David - humbled himself  and admitted his crime. However, the next generation had to pay for their father’s sins. [Cf. 1 Kings 21: 27-29.]

Tragedy leaped a generation for Ahab - but is this simply historians rewriting history - or making commentaries on history after the fact?


I need to conclude somehow. This is just a weekday homily - and it’s gotten too long already.

Jesus thought and taught a lot about this issue of karma. Different religions and different cultures might not use the word “karma” - but we can spot the questions that are imbedded in it.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus talks about breaking evil cycles. He talks about forgiveness, turning the other cheek, going the extra mile.  In today’s gospel he explicitly says, “You have been told to love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…..”
June 14, 2016


Obviously, it’s easier to talk about
someone than to talk to that someone.

Obviously, long before cellphones,
people have been talking to others inside
their mind all day long and all the time -
even when they are with someone else.

Obviously, long before phone cameras, 
people have been taking selfies in every
mirror as well as every shiny surface
they are walking past.

Obviously, strange people get avoided.
As a result, people avoid them even more. Then they become odder and odder.  Then
people avoid them even more and more.

Obviously, when we speak up, we can
expect consequences, as well as some
inconvenient requests for help. So
some people never speak up. Nope -
they just sit there with a soul smirk and
an inward smile - seeing us as, "Stupid!" 

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016



The title of my homily for this 11th Monday in Ordinary Time is, “Lex Talionis” - “The Law of the Talon.”


Today’s First Reading from the 1st Book of Kings tells us the nasty story about how Ahab and Jezebel steal another person’s vineyard. They frame Naboth and have him stoned to death. Then they take his land.

Today’s gospel from Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount has comments about the Lex Talionis - “talon” being the word for claw. The Lex Talionis was basically: “when someone claws our eye out - or knocks one of our teeth out” - we have the right to retaliate by knocking the other person’s eye or tooth out in fair exchange.

Jesus - to stop the bloodshed - to stop the violence - goes the extra mile on all that - and tells us not to resist evil. Turn the other cheek. If someone wants your mink coat - give that person your diamond necklace as well.

Imagine if someone countered Jesus when he said that and told the story of Ahab and Jezebel - which we heard in our first reading -  and asked if we should give all tyrants what they want and never resist the Hitler’s of this world.

That’s a question we all need to face when it comes to violence and horror stories.

Today’s Gospel - today’s readings - can get us in touch with some pretty basic human emotions. Today’s readings challenge us to look at some nitty gritty stuff - some basic human responses to how we react when someone hurts, injuries, ignores or puts us down.

Today’s readings can get us in touch with feelings that erupt within us when we want to get back at others.

The other person annoys us with a remark. They ignore us. They bother us with loud music. They slam doors in our face. They reject us.

And we react by wanting to return them the disfavor.


Relief of the Hammurabi Code in the Louvre

Jesus quotes the Lex Talionis from the Hammurabi Code. “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”

This was a good law - dating back to 1754 BC.   It was created to limit revenge - to fix exact compensation for an injury.

The human tendency is to escalate. It’s the tendency to come up with a more brutal retaliation - doubling our response. You take one eye, I’ll take both of yours.

Down through history there have been folks who scream out: “Wait a minute.”

Mahatma Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye makes us all blind.”

Gandhi also said, "Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as cooperation with good."                                        

Gandhi chose the way of non-violence and was killed on January 30, 1948.  A man named Nathuram Godse thought that Gandhi was hurting Hindus by being friendly with Muslims. So he shot Gandhi and killed him. Notice the year: 1948.  Read the papers this week in 2016.

Martin Luther King Jr. also chose the way of non-violence and he too was killed.


The New Testament is called “NEW” for a reason.

Jesus gave us a new law. He tried to eliminate the old  law of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

Jesus called for patience.

Jesus said, “Don’t insist on personal rights.”

Jesus said, “Don’t get back with hate.”

Jesus said, “Respond with love.”

Jesus said to “Turn the other cheek.”

In his day, people knew what cheek to slap for starters: the right cheek.

The back of the hand was still more insulting.

On page 52 of Robert Bractchet’s, in his A Translator’s Guide To The Gospel Of Matthew, says this about the text, “one cheek ... the other cheek.” It is probable that the language is purposely chosen. A person’s right cheek is ordinarily struck with the back of the hand of the one doing the striking, which was a particularly insulting way to strike a person. So if possible, the biblical language should be retained in translating.”

“That was a slap in the face!” is still an euphemism in use.

Joachim Jeremias in his commentary on the Sermon on The Mount says that a slap on the face was the insult given to one judged a heretic.

In the literature about this Sermon on the Mount text I noticed someone saying that there was a Jewish law that you must give your cloak if that would be all another would have for a cold night.

Also, a person could also be pressed to carry a soldiers pack - as they walked down the road. Remember Simon of Cyrene being pressed into service to carry Jesus’ cross.

Commenting on Leviticus 29; 18 Dr. Moses Aberbach tells of two men who were agricultural workers. One asks the other to borrow a sickle and the other refuses.  The next day the one who refused to lend the sickle asks to borrow an axe from the one who had asked to borrow the sickle. He answered “No. You refused to lend me your sickle when I asked to borrow it.” That was retaliation that was equal.

But if he asked for a grinding stone and was refused,  now that would be bearing a grudge - that is, if he responded, “No, because you refused to lend me your axe or sickle yesterday.”

Today’s gospel also talks about loans. There were a lot of problems with loans. Farmers would have crops that died or dried up because of droughts. As a result, they would need to borrow. Sometimes money lenders would charge interest rates that were 100 - 200 %

Or merchants and business people would  lose everything because of shipping problems: sinking, pirates, unplanned on taxes - or this or that.  

So all this is real - back then and up to now.


I read with interest Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s comments on this section of Matthew in his book, The Cost of Discipleship. He calls for non-violence. He calls for turning the other cheek. He calls for the principle of non-resistance. He gives all the regular objections: that you will be crushed by the state, stupid, that you will be walked on. He says that this is what Jesus stressed. He ends by saying that Jesus did not come to give a political blueprint. He ends by saying that Jesus died on the cross by the state.

I checked the year when Bonhoeffer wrote this book. It was first published in 1937. I wonder what his thoughts were those last few years under Hitler. He resisted. Yet he still said, “When Jesus calls a man, he calls him come and die.”


So this morning, that’s some stuff on revenge and retaliation. 
June 13, 2016


What would happen
if we woke up
that Wednesday morning
in November and discovered
after all the words
and all the drama
everyone saw through him
and nobody voted for him?

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Sunday, June 12, 2016

June 12, 2016


To be honest, I’ll admit, there is in me,
a bit of inaccuracy, inability, insecurity,
indecision, inattention, and I can be
inconsiderate, infantile, as well as
insensitive at times. Okay better add
some positive qualities such as
industrious, independent, as well as
having a bunch of other insights about
me that begin with im, intra and inter…..
Now, that’s in me. What’s  with you? 
What's in you? What do you own up to?

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016



The title of my homily for this 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C - is, “The Power of a Parable.”

Subtitle or Alternative Title: “The Power of a Story.”

I want to talk and think out loud about the power of a story - a parable - an example - that moves us so powerfully - that it challenges us to change our thinking - change our behavior - change our lives - to make us different than we were.

Has that ever happened to you?

Better: this has happened to you. It has happened to all of us. It’s called life, growth, mimicking. Why do babies smile?  They look into the mirror of our face.

But we might not have done our homework, heart work, brain work, memory work - reflecting about and considering the stories of our lives - the stories that have sculpted us.


At Thanksgiving a few years ago we were at Virginia Beach as a family.  I was driving back to Annapolis the next day - Friday - and one of my nieces asked if I could drive her and her daughter to BWI - so she could fly back to Miami - where they live.

Great experience - because we had a chance for a 5 hour plus talk. She said she went to Spain with her mother while in high school to visit an older sister who was spending a year of college in Madrid. Experiencing that she said to herself, “This is great. When I go to college. [She went to JMU] I’m going to do this year in Spain thing. She did and that’s how she met her husband to be and the whole direction of her life changed - living in Hamburg, Germany, Bogota, Colombia, and Miami, Florida - bringing 3 children into the world.


That’s was one of her stories - from that car ride.

What are your significant stories?

By that I mean the stories that formed and informed you - negatively and positively. I want to do this. I don’t want to do that.

I have never drank because I saw an uncle drunk a lot of times when I was a little kid and I must have said, “I’m never going to do that!” and I haven’t.

So it might be our childhood stories, our parent’s stories - brother’s and sister’s stories - our family stories.

The first step is to gather the stories.

The second step is to name  how our thinking has changed - because of an experience.

It can be  also be a non-family story - a book or a movie or a play.

I saw a movie, The Black Hand, around 1950. It was a cheap Saturday afternoon matinee. I was a kid with my older  brother.  I don’t remember anything in the movie other than a scene on a deck of a ship and a group of young men were talking about why they were coming from Italy to America. Gene Kelly, playing the part of Giovani - Johnny - Colombo pulls out a knife - opens it up - and throws it down into the wooden deck of the ship - and says, “I’m going to America to avenge the death of my father.”

Was that the first time I got in touch with one of life’s most important questions: motive?

In 1968, I remember seeing on Broadway the play, The Price, by Arthur Miller. A father dies. Two brothers show up to deal with the selling of the furniture - and they are waiting for a buyer. One brother says to the other brother something like this, “You want the God-almighty handshake and you’re not going to get it.” One brother had left home and went to college and became a doctor while the other brother stayed home to take care of their dad - and became a policeman.
Is that when I realized for the first time that some people won’t forgive some people - especially family members?

That play by Arthur Miller got me to think deeply about that question.

As Shakespeare puts  it in Hamlet, in the play he devises within the play, “The play’s the thing / Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.”

I’ve seen the movie, Shawshank Redemption at least 7 times and every time something different hits me. Being a Redemptorist - I hope I’d notice redemption stories - salvation stories - people being stuck stories - imprisoned stories - becoming free - and longing for freedom stories.

I often think of Andy Dufresne’s line in that movie, “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.” 

So the title of my homily is, “The Power of a Parable.”


Today’s first reading from the Second Book of Samuel - refers to the life of David the King of Israel.  He rose from the life of the youngest brother in a big family of brothers - and a shepherd - to becoming a fighter - then the king of Israel.  Then his life got soft.

If you’ve seen the comedy movie, History of the World Part I, Mel Brooks says over and over again, as he breaks all the rules - and does anything he wants to do, “It’s good to be the king.”

So David spots Bathsheba taking a bath and the king wants what he wants when he wants it and steals another’s man’s wife: Uriah the Hittite.

Then when she tells David she is pregnant, David brings Uriah home - but he won’t go to his house because he knows what’s happening. So David has Uriah killed.  We hear that in today’s first reading.  It’s Soap Opera stuff in the 11th and 12th chapter of book Second  Book of Samuel.

And Nathan the prophet hears about the story. He goes to the palace and tells David, “David I want to tell you a story, a parable.” It’s in the 11th Chapter of the Book of Samuel. He tells David about a rich man who has a huge herd of sheep and he has a guest coming for dinner. Instead of having one of his sheep slaughtered for the feast, he steals the sheep of his neighbor down the road - who is dirt poor and has only one sheep.

David upon hearing the story yells, “Who is that man who did this? He deserves to die. If he’s part of my kingdom I’ll have him pay back fourfold.”

And Nathan the prophet says, “That man is you!”

And Nathan points out that David has a harem - many wives. He doesn’t mention how he got some of them - only Bathsheba.

And here in our reading in Chapter 12 of Second Samuel, David takes the parable, the story, and points it at himself and repents.

I’m sure some of you heard in sermons and talks that Louis Evely, a Belgian priest and writer wrote a whole book on that phrase, “That Man Is You.”


That story from Nathan the prophet - that book by Louis Evely - was an eye opener for me.

That 1964 book  taught me how to read the scriptures.

I open up the Bible. I start reading. I start saying: “That man is me.”” That woman is me.” “That person is me.” “That character is me.”

I read the story. I read the saying. I read the parable and I ask, “How is this story, this parable, this comment, me?”

I am the prodigal son - who needs forgiveness. I am the older brother - who won’t forgive a family member. I am the forgiving father. I am the lost sheep, the lost coin. I am the man wounded, hurt, on the roads of life and I need someone to help me. Or I am called to be the Good Samaritan. Or I am like the two characters in the parable of the Good Samaritan who walk by people who are hurting. I am wheat or I am weeds. I am a tree producing good fruit or bad fruit or no fruit. I am Adam. I am Eve. I am Judas or I am Peter. I am David or Uriah or Bathsheba.
Wu Yuen-kwei, Her Sins Are Forgiven

In today’s gospel, we heard about the Pharisee who invites Jesus to eat with him. Don’t we all want to eat with Jesus? Isn’t that why we are here today? Next a woman comes into the house because she heard Jesus was there. She starts crying. The tears fall on Jesus’ feet - washing them. She dries his feet with her hair. She kisses his feet. She then anoints his feet with the precious perfumed oil she had with her.

The Pharisee thinks - and Luke tells us what he is thinking - and that Jesus knows what the Pharisee is thinking. “If this Jesus is a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.”

Then Jesus says to Simon, “I want to tell you a story.”

Simon says  the same thing David said to the prophet Nathan in the Second Book of Samuel, “Tell me the story!”

Jesus says, “Two people were in debt to a certain creditor; one owed five hundred day’s wages and the other owed fifth. Since both were unable to repay the debt, he forgave them both. Which of them would love him more?”

Simon answers, “The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.”

Then Jesus says, “You have judged rightly.”

Then Jesus turns to the woman and says to Simon. “Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you didn’t give me water for my feet, but this woman   bathed my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but she has not stopped kissing my feet since the time I entered. You didn’t anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.”

We know how David took the story from Nathan. We don’t know how the Pharisee too this story from Jesus.

We do know that Jesus says about the woman, “So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven because she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”

Then he says to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”

The others at the dinner table said to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

Jesus doesn’t respond to them, but says to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

We all heard the story?

Am I the Pharisee? Am I the woman? Am I Jesus? Am I the others at the table?

That man…. that woman …. is me.


These stories in the Bible are for folks long after they happened.  These stories are for you and me.

I worked in a retreat house in Pennsylvania for 7 years and a well know Mafia guy used to come on retreat and the men complained and finally the priest in charge said, “Aren’t you glad he’s here?”

I’ve been in churches where folks complained about women’s cleavage, elected officials, so and so being at Mass - and I wasn’t Nathan enough or Jesus enough or a priest I worked with enough to say, “Aren’t you glad she’s here? Aren’t you glad he’s here?”

Better I should have said, “I’m tempted to say, I’m glad you’re here, but I better say, I’m glad we’re here.”