Mass of the Holy Spirit for Chancery Staff – September 16, 2021
Thursday of the 24th Week in Ordinary Time

We gather in prayer as many of us do every day – to give thanks to God for the gift of life – to pray for the needs of those we love – to ask for the guidance that we need to get from one day to the next with a sense of peace – and, to implore our God that these challenging days lived under the shadow of a global pandemic that continues to confound us might soon come to an end. …  Today, we also come together in prayer as Diocesan staff to pray for the blessings of the Holy Spirit as we begin a new season of service to the people of God in our diocese.

In today’s gospel, a Pharisee named Simon and his guests were appalled by an exchange that they witnessed between Jesus and a known sinful woman of the town who approached him while he was at table in Simon’s house.  To their surprise, Jesus didn’t dismiss the uninvited and unwelcomed woman but graciously accepted her act of loving hospitality as she anointed Jesus’ feet.

Again and again in St. Luke’s gospel, we see Jesus lifting people out of the boxes in which they have been placed, from a woman caught in adultery to a despised tax collector.  In every instance, Jesus recognizes and acknowledges the potential within the hearts of each of these “unclean” souls, despite the fact that many of the righteous judge these individuals solely by what they exhibit on the surface of their lives.  …  Remember, even the condemned criminal hanging next to him on Calvary was promised paradise in return for the compassion that he extended to the dying Jesus.

It’s hardly surprising that the sinful woman’s attitude stood in stark contrast to that of Jesus’ host, Simon, the self-righteous Pharisee who believed that Jesus had disgraced himself by his acceptance of the repentant woman.  Sadly, however, Simon failed to understand everyone’s need – including his own – for forgiveness and reconciliation with those we hurt and with those who hurt us.  Yet, only in acknowledging that need are any of us able to authentically approach the Lord and invoke his saving grace in our lives.

As disciples of Jesus, we are called to be reconcilers, not judges.  …  We are called to forgive, not to keep score.  …  We are called to welcome back those who want to return and to enable them to put their lives back together, not to set up conditions or establish litmus tests to ensure their sincerity or to measure their orthodoxy.

Jesus transformed the lives of those who lived on the margins of his world – those who were forgotten and used by society – those who were kept at a distance by the self-righteous few.  We’re called to serve in just the same way.

We gather in prayer today as a Diocesan staff – as members of the Church – as disciples of the Lord.  Like Jesus, may we welcome and honor the poor and struggling, the lost and broken.  In so doing, may we come to appreciate a bit more deeply that we too find our life and salvation just like the woman in today’s gospel – at the feet of Jesus, imploring his love and mercy.