Therefore, if food causes my brother to sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I may not cause my brother to sin. Saint Paul in today’s first reading is talking about meat sacrificed to idols. So concerned about the potential to lead someone away from Jesus, he makes this statement about not eating meat. He is not eating meat sacrificed to idols. But he is always concerned about helping strengthen relationships with Jesus. I have never thought much about the effect of my actions on others. Do my actions serve as a hindrance to the faith life of others, keeping them from getting to know and love Jesus? Or does my witness lead them to a deeper relationship with Jesus?
I am a sinner. I am selfish. I am greedy. I am mean. I am inconsiderate of others. I sin. I fail. I commit evil.
If I am going to be forgiven, I need to own my sinfulness. I cannot say I am not as bad as others so that is good enough. I must admit I am a sinner.
Simon Peter comes face to face with the glory of God. He then recognizes his sinfulness. But he learns that forgiveness is not earned, but freely given by God.
We might not be used to reading the Bible in this way, but with careful notice one can see that often the events of the New Testament are foreshadowed in the Old. Today Saint Paul gives us one of the most common examples, the comparison of the First Adam, who by one act, sinned, causing us all to inherit sin, and the New Adam, Christ, who by one act, redeemed all opening the door to salvation. It serves as a reminder that we should do our best to hear the warning Jesus gives to us in the gospel. We should be awake, on guard, on the watch, so that we can clearly experience the presence of God wherever we find it.
This is a great gospel. Some version of this story is in all four gospels. It had to be quite a scene when Simon, who was expecting a dinner with a mover and shaker named Jesus found him big moment interrupted by this sinful woman. And what a scene she created! Without knowing her, or perhaps because he knew her in the biblical sense, Simon was mortified by her presence. But Simon learned a very important lesson about the spiritual life. Even though the woman was sinful, she loved more. And when she approached Jesus in love to seek forgiveness, he forgave her great sin. While love does not give us permission to sin, it does allow us to receive great forgiveness when we turn to Jesus in contrition.
Go into any bookstore and find the “self-help” section and there are really an unbelievable number of books. It seems that many have an opinion that doing something easy will make life perfect. And if we are not careful, the Christian life can be reduced to the same “self-help” philosophy. If we go around doing good, we will be better. But Christian discipleship is more than this. It is entering into a powerful relationship with Jesus, and allowing that relationship to change us, perhaps even allowing it to take us where we do not want to go. Jesus is not a self-help guru, but the divine Son of God who heals our sin and brokenness and calls to something more than we can imagine.