Saturday, June 11, 2016

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle C

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

Prostitutes Are Safe with Him

Have you ever wondered why Jesus was close to prostitutes? He was so close to this class of women that he said they that they were entering the kingdom of God ahead of the religious leaders of Israel. In the genealogy of Jesus or list of his ancestors, the Holy Spirit through Matthew the writer points out specifically the women who acted as prostitutes: Tamar is first mentioned who acted as a prostitute before her father-in-law Judah so that she could have a son; Rahab is next, the famous prostitute in Jericho who welcomed the spies of the Israelites; next is the wife of Uriah who succumbed to the wealth, power and authority of David.

Jesus was close to prostitutes and our Gospel reading today tells us an incident when Jesus was physically close to a prostitute. In fact this prostitute washed his feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair, anointed them with ointment and kept on kissing them. All the while Jesus did not complain, he let the prostitute do what she wanted. Jesus did not feel ill at ease that a prostitute was beside him, touching him. He did not follow the injunction of Moses in Leviticus (chapter 5) not to touch an unclean person or thing.

We are not told by Luke or by the other Evangelists the name of this prostitute. Later tradition has identified her with Mary of Magdala or Mary Magdalene, but there is no solid proof that indeed she was Mary Magdalene. Most Bible scholars today say she was not Mary Magdalene. And they also say that Mary Magdalene was not necessarily a prostitute, despite having seven demons cast out of her by Jesus.

Today data from the Internet tell us that there are 42 million prostitutes around the world producing an income of 100 billion dollars, a great proportion of them children. In India according to these data 1.2 million prostitutes are children. Today some feminist advocates do not want them to be called prostitutes but sex workers. In a very true sense they are the most exploited and oppressed class of women in the world. They perform a work which they do not want deep in their heart. Studies of this trade, some say the oldest profession in the world, indicate that in general women become prostitutes for the sake of money, easy money to appear good before society or the only source they can think of to support themselves and their family.

I know of a young mother who was forced into prostitution to support her child. She only finished grade school, had a husband but this man could not produce enough income to support his wife and child. Fortunately when their financial circumstances improved she abandoned this work.

These are the women Jesus had a special affection for, the prostitutes. And today he still has this special affection for them. His church has tried various means throughout history to improve their situation. But the church leaders have not done enough to eliminate this vicious practice of selling bodies for pleasure and cash. In the late middle ages there was a movement of making these prostitutes into brides of Christ but this movement did not gain any momentum.

There was something in Jesus the prostitutes saw that attracted them to him. In him they saw a man who would never abuse them but would always respect and love them. And so they gravitated to him.

Today Jesus is still this man who respects and loves prostitutes. The problem is that these prostitutes no longer see him. And those who profess they are followers of Jesus do not introduce Jesus to them.

If Christian men only behave like Jesus they would make these prostitutes see even just a glimpse of their Master. And seeing this Master they would, like the prostitute in our gospel reading, come to Jesus, touch him and be saved by their faith in Jesus. This is what Jesus said to her, the last part in the story, Your faith has been your salvation, go in peace.

In the movie the Gospel according to Luke the movie director had the woman in this story cast a glance at the audience as she left the dining hall. The glance expressed relief and freedom from the exploitative trade she had fallen into. This is what Jesus gives us, relief and freedom from anything that exploits us. Let us pray for prostitutes all over the world.    

Let us bow our heads in prayer. Heavenly Father, we know that you care about the prostitutes all over the world. You sent your son Jesus to save them. The attempts of governments to legalize their trade or to punish them or their clients have not availed much to improve their condition. Help us to live like Jesus so that as people see Jesus in us even these prostitutes will be drawn to your son, their sins be forgiven, and they be saved completely from this sinful way of living. In his mighty name, we pray. Amen.

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