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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Ordinary Sunday 11, Year C
With St Mary’s Catholic Church, Erskineville
South Sydney Uniting Church
June 13, 2010

Luke 7:36-8:3

See this person?’

The three-person drama of our Gospel sees Jesus at the house of a respectable community leader, Simon, where a dinner party is “gate crashed” by a woman with a “low reputation”. (With which of the three characters do you most identify?) There are two opposing expectations. Simon expects that Jesus, if he is a prophet as Simon understands that particular calling, will shun the woman. The woman expects that Jesus, a prophet as she understands that particular calling and personality, will accept her and protect her.

It’s a drama to which we can readily relate – if ever we have been invited to join a respectable, powerful or “cool” society/group and then faced a temptation to shun or disown an outsider.

As I sat down to prepare this homily I heard on the news that footballer Timana Tahu had walked out of the New South Wales State of Origin camp because of an alleged racial slur made by assistant coach, Andrew Johns. Johns reportedly made a racial reference to a Maroons Aboriginal star. Tahu’s mother is Aboriginal. It’s possible that Tahu expected much more of the assistant coach – that he expected to be respected. It’s possible that Johns assumed the racist superiority of a colonial, macho culture. It was just a joke.

Actually, the inhospitality presented in today’s Gospel often takes the form of a joke. We can imagine Simon regarding the intrusive woman as something of a joke. We can imagine him telling jokes at her expense – and then at the expense of Jesus so embarrassingly caught up in the intimacy.

In any kind of ministry the temptation to relieve the stress and pressure of pastoral responsibility by making gentle jokes about those we have promised to care for, is close at hand. Trouble is, these jokes are usually not so innocent, not so faithful. It’s not funny to offend the sensibilities of someone with a “low reputation” – however such a reputation has come about. “See this woman?” Jesus said to Simon. “Do you see this person? Do you see this person as a person?”

Last week we prayed for understanding towards peace and a sharing of blessings in the Holy Land. An article in the Guardian during the week reports that a French reality television program is to feature six Palestinian and six Israeli 18-year-olds cohabiting as they hold negotiations aimed at establishing a peace deal. The French director Mohamed Ulad, who has co-written the scenario with the Franco-Israeli philosopher Sophie Nordmann, has rejected the idea that the program could be provocative. With the biggest populations of Jews and Muslims of any Western European country, France often experiences bouts of violence related to the Middle East. “We are not going to make trash TV … We will try to take part in discussions between young people, Israelis and Palestinians, who will be socializing for the first time.”

The program will run over three weeks. Sounds to me like a positive effort to challenge a situation where so many are stuck in their own convictions. A means of asking: “Do you see this person? Do you see this people? Do you see this young person? Do you see this Palestinian people, this Jewish people?”

Today’s Gospel presents a drama to which we can readily relate – if ever we have been invited to join a respectable, powerful or “cool” society/group and then faced a temptation to shun or disown an outcast.

Simon, we may well conclude, is the real sinner. After all, Jesus reserved a special anger for the hypocrisy of authorities who made a living denouncing sin while concealing their own corruption. We can be tempted to shun Simon the Pharisee. To shut him out – to look down on him or laugh at his expense – and all those like him. And yet I’m reminded of something I read in preparation for Thursday’s Bible Study – Jesus “did not endorse sin, but he saw sin as an occasion for mercy and for forgiveness of the sinner” (John D. Caputo).

That’s a healthy word on which to finish: sin is an occasion for mercy. That’s what sin is – an occasion for mercy. Amen.


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