BY DAVID MARION
11th Sunday of the Year 1. 2 Samuel 12:7-10.132. Galatians 2:16.19-21. 3. Luke 7:36-8:3.
TonAv we get two of the best short stories in the Bible. The first comes from the book of Samuel. History is not short of stories about the abuse of power but this is one of the worst. King David's behaviour is disgusting.
He seduces Bathsheba the wife of Uriah, one of his soldiers who is away fighting. When he discovers that Bathsheba is pregnant he tries to get Uriah to sleep with his wife in order to conceal the paternity of the child. When that fails he arranges for Uriab to be killed in battle. It is not a very nice story.
Nathan the prophet is the real hero. He challenges David by telling him a story about a rich man who steals a lamb from a poor one.
David becomes indignant and is then forced to understand that it is his behaviour that Nathan has been talking about. Then he is sorry and asks for God's forgiveness. He gets that but the price of his sins is the death of the child.
Nathan took a risk. Telling the truth to powerful people is not usually popular. Too often they are surrounded by those who tell them what they want to hear.
Forgiveness is also part of the gospel story today. It is the story about a dinner, a woman, some oil or ointment and the wiping of feet.
More or less the same story is told by Mark, Matthew and John. They all give different details but in Luke the main thrust is not the same. In the other three the point of the story is that the disciples, Judas in particular, were angry or shocked at the waste of valuable ointment. In Luke the story becomes one of forgiveness. The woman "had a bad name in the town". Gossip must have given her that and gossip is something we all enjoy sharing. The host at the meal was Simon the Pharisee who clearly thought he had a very good name.
Jesus makes him realise that he was being compared unfavourably with a woman of bad reputation who seems to have barged in from the street. Why? Because whatever her sins she had more love in her heart than he did.
This is not a Sunday which gives much comfort to those of us who like to think of ourselves as respectable. Being respectable, these passages make clear, is not the highest virtue.