Contrition: Catholic homily outline for the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

David and Bathsheba

Central idea: God gladly forgives the sins of the contrite of heart. Doctrine: Contrition. Practical application: Daily examination of conscience.

To view Lectionary 93, click here.

Central idea: God gladly forgives the sins of the contrite of heart

Reading 1 2 Sm 12:7-10, 13

Nathan said to David:
“Thus says the LORD God of Israel:
‘I anointed you king of Israel.
I rescued you from the hand of Saul.
I gave you your lord’s house and your lord’s wives for your own.
I gave you the house of Israel and of Judah.
And if this were not enough, I could count up for you still more.
Why have you rejected the LORD and done evil in his sight?
You have cut down Uriah the Hittite with the sword;
you took his wife as your own,
and him you killed with the sword of the Ammonites.
Now, therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house,
because you have looked down on me
and have taken the wife of Uriah to be your wife.’”

Then David said to Nathan,
“I have sinned against the LORD.”
Nathan answered David:
“The LORD on his part has forgiven your sin:
you shall not die.”

  • The prophet Nathan points out to King David is that God has given him everything any man could ever ask for in this life.
  • Yet, out of lust for her beauty, King David committed adultery with Bathsheba and got her pregnant. She was the wife of his most loyal soldier Uriah.
  • David tried various means of covering up his sin but when they all failed he found a way to get Uriah killed in battle.
  • When the prophet Nathan helped the king come to his senses, King David declared, “I have sinned against the LORD.” These were not just words. David’s contrition was profound.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 32:1-2, 5, 7, 11

R. Lord, forgive the wrong I have done.

Blessed is the one whose fault is taken away,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed the man to whom the LORD imputes not guilt,
in whose spirit there is no guile.

I acknowledged my sin to you,
my guilt I covered not.
I said, “I confess my faults to the LORD,”
and you took away the guilt of my sin.

You are my shelter; from distress you will preserve me;
with glad cries of freedom you will ring me round.

Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you just;
exult, all you upright of heart.

  • Blessed is the person who does not commit serious sins in the first place.
  • But also blessed is the person who repents sincerely of his sins and who receives God’s forgiveness.
  • Like David, every sinner is blessed who free admits his sin to God without excuses.
  • The “glad cries of freedom” that ring round the sinner is the freedom from the sin the person has received from God.

Reading 2 Gal 2:16, 19-21

Brothers and sisters:
We who know that a person is not justified by works of the law
but through faith in Jesus Christ,
even we have believed in Christ Jesus
that we may be justified by faith in Christ
and not by works of the law,
because by works of the law no one will be justified.
For through the law I died to the law,
that I might live for God.
I have been crucified with Christ;
yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me;
insofar as I now live in the flesh,
I live by faith in the Son of God
who has loved me and given himself up for me.
I do not nullify the grace of God;
for if justification comes through the law,
then Christ died for nothing.

  • Every human being is created with the desire to enjoy happiness and attain to perfect happiness. To serve as our guide, God has given us the moral law, whether its contents are found in the natural law, the Ten Commandments, the Mosaic Law with all its precepts (if we were Jews), the commandment to love God above all things and one’s neighbor as one’s self, or Christ’s New Law of Charity.
  • But we have something wrong with us—the Church names it original sin—which keeps inclining us to sin. So, we Christians, being only human, fail along the way.
  • We attain salvation and ultimate, complete happiness with the direct vision of God. This is due not to our perfect obedience to any moral law, but through our cooperation with grace, a gift won for us by Christ by his loving sacrifice.
  • The drama of our lives is the battle between our aspirations to do good and the pull of sin. We need the graces Christ won for us and offers us, especially through the Sacraments.

Alleluia 1 Jn 4:10b

God loved us and sent his Son
as expiation for our sins.

  • God gladly forgives the sins of the contrite of heart

Gospel Lk 7:36—8:3

Pharisee invited Jesus to dine with him,
and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table.
Now there was a sinful woman in the city
who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee.
Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment,
she stood behind him at his feet weeping
and began to bathe his feet with her tears.
Then she wiped them with her hair,
kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself,
“If this man were a prophet,
he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him,
that she is a sinner.”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“Simon, I have something to say to you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
“Two people were in debt to a certain creditor;
one owed five hundred days’ wages and the other owed fifty.
Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both.
Which of them will love him more?”
Simon said in reply,
“The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.”
He said to him, “You have judged rightly.”

Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon,
“Do you see this woman?
When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet,
but she has bathed them with her tears
and wiped them with her hair.
You did not give me a kiss,
but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered.
You did not anoint my head with oil,
but she anointed my feet with ointment.
So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven
because she has shown great love.
But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”
He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The others at table said to themselves,
“Who is this who even forgives sins?”
But he said to the woman,
“Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Afterward he journeyed from one town and village to another,
preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.
Accompanying him were the Twelve
and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities,
Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,
Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza,
Susanna, and many others who provided for them
out of their resources.

  • As Christ reclined at the banquet, the woman washed his feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with perfumed oil.
  • Taken together, the “sinful” woman and King David make a perfect model of contrition. David made a naked confession, “I have sinned against the LORD.” She showed sorrow for her condition with her tears. Neither said a word on his own behalf. No excuses. No elaborate explanations. No blaming others.
  • In his parable about forgiveness, his explanation of it, and his application of it to what is going on at this dinner, Jesus really requires Simon the Pharisee—and us—to think.
    • In the parable, two men who cannot pay a creditor what they owe him are forgiven their debts by that creditor: one a significant amount of money, the other ten times more.
    • Jesus asks Simon which man will love the creditor more. Simon answers correctly, the one who owed more.
    • But the subject Simon has raised and Jesus is talking to him about is sin not money. The obvious implication is that Simon is like the man who owed less and the sinful woman is like the man who owed ten times more.
    • But the love Jesus praises the sinful woman for occurs before any word of forgiveness. Jesus says to Simon, “her many sins have been forgiven because she has shown great love.” Then he says to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven,” and “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”
    • However, he also says to Simon, “But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”
      • I think Jesus means something like this: “Simon, if I were to say to you, ‘your sins are forgiven’, it would mean little to you, because you don’t think you are a sinner. Therefore, you don’t hunger forgiveness and are not ready to pour out your love on the one who can give it to you.”
      • Shouldn’t we hope this exchange got Simon thinking about whether he, too, was a sinner and was in need of forgiveness?
      • It should also get us thinking, if we consider ourselves basically one of the good guys, not one of the obviously “bad” persons.
    • We the Baptized live “in Christ.” That is, with his grace we try to do good and avoid evil, not to save ourselves or justify ourselves, but because that is what children of God should do.
    • When a person sincerely asks God to forgive his sins, God forgives. David confessed his sin to God. God took away the guilt of his sin. David was freed and rejoiced. No doubt so was the woman.
    • And when we fail, we turn in sorrow to our good God who readily forgives us. He has even given us a Sacrament for that: Penance.

Doctrine: Contrition

  • The Sacrament of Reconciliation’s fundamental structure “comprises two equally essential elements: on the one hand, the acts of the man who undergoes conversion through the action of the Holy Spirit: namely, contrition, confession, and satisfaction; on the other, God’s action through the intervention of the Church” (CCC 1448).
  • Here we will focus on one of the acts of the individual: contrition.
  • Contrition is “sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again” (CCC 1451). We saw the deep sorrow in the woman who washed Christ’s feet.
  • In regard to the resolution not to sin again, the idea some have that Catholics think you can go out and do whatever you want, and then confess it, and then go out and do it again, is insane. There must be a real resolve to not do it again.
  • The Church recognizes two kinds of contrition.
    • Perfect contrition arises out of loving God above all else. “Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible” (CCC 1452).
    • Imperfect contrition is also a gift of grace and is “born of the consideration of sin’s ugliness or the fear of eternal damnation and the other penalties threatening the sinner.” This sorrow is not perfect because it grows out of fear. Still it is a good thing because it “can initiate an interior process which, under the prompting of grace, will be brought to completion by sacramental absolution.” With imperfect contrition, the grave sin is not forgiven before sacramental absolution. (CCC 1453)
  • If you feel guilty when you do wrong, consider yourself fortunate, because your conscience and heart are working properly. That guilt is there to lead you to contrition.

Practical Application: Daily examination of conscience

  • The Catechism tells us we ought to prepare for the Sacrament of Reconciliation by “an examination of conscience made in light of the Word of God” (CCC 1454).
  • A practical tool that Christians have discovered to improve in their moral lives is the examination of conscience, not simply before going to Confession, but every day.
  • At the end of the day, but not so late that you are nodding off asleep, you have a dialogue with Our Lord about how your day has gone. There are many ways of doing this self-evaluation. One simple method is to ask yourself these three questions:
    • What went well today? This will elicit gratitude in you.
    • What went badly today? This should result in contrition.
    • What could I do better tomorrow? This gives you the basis for a practical resolution.
  • The examination of conscience is a way to help you improve, rather than to stay in the same place or even to deteriorate.
  • The daily examination should end with an act of contrition, either a formal one like you learned as a child or in your own words.
  • If you make a few cryptic notes about the things that went badly, you may begin to see the patterns of your own behavior that might be perfectly obvious to others but invisible to you. You also will have done most of the work of preparing for a good Confession.

Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)

This outline is written to be in accord with the Homiletic Directory issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2014). (To read an excellent summary of the Homiletic Directory, click here.)

 

 

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