When we think of King David, it is natural to focus on his greatness, his love of God and his importance in the history of the Hebrew people, even though we know his failings. Today, however, we hear the prophet Nathan speaking for God, recounting all the favors God has done for David and then listing all of David’s egregious transgressions (2 SM 12: 7-13). Most stunning is the question: “Why have you rejected the Lord and done evil in his sight?” If David had been ignoring the seriousness of his sins or trying to rationalize his actions, that question must have shocked him into recognition of the depth of his sinfulness, because immediately he responded to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” His deep remorse is difficult to grasp from that simple sentence, but God knew his heart. Nathan answered for God saying, “The Lord on his part has forgiven your sin; you shall not die.”
In the gospel, it is Jesus who points out the sinful behavior of Simon the Pharisee who has invited him to dinner (LK 7:36 – 8:3). When a woman known to be a sinner approached Jesus, weeping and anointing his feet with ointment, Simon judged not only her but also the legitimacy of Jesus as prophet because he should not be allowing the touch of such a woman. When Jesus points out Simon’s lack of hospitality to him and compares it to how generous the woman has been with her love, everyone at the table is surprised when he then says, “Your sins are forgiven.” Again we have a simple sentence that holds so much meaning! Her life was undoubtedly changed forever.
Pope Francis surprised the world some time ago by declaring that he is a sinner; he knows and admits that this is a fact of his life. In a way, it seems, the Pope’s declaration has opened a way for all of us to admit the same. God’s forgiveness of David was immediate because, in spite of his sin, David loved God intensely. Jesus saw that same love in the woman who bathed his feet with her tears and welcomed her because of that love. We suffer in our sins because we cannot accept the possibility of God’s forgiveness and the reality that God is just waiting to hear us say, “Please forgive me.”
Psalm 32 proclaims that if we acknowledge our sin it will be taken away. As a result, the psalmist sings to God: You are my shelter; from distress you will preserve me; with glad cries of freedom you will ring me round. And what could be better than that! So let us run to God’s heart and feel the words we long to hear: “My Beloved, your sins are forgiven!”