From Fr. Anthony Ligato…
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
They say justice is blind, the figure of Lady Justice that graces the facades of our court houses throughout this great land, depicts Lady Justice with a blindfold and holding a scale in balance. The blind fold represents that all people are equal in the eyes of the law, no matter their station in life, wealth, race, creed or color. The scale that Lady Justice holds in balance indicates that justice is based on the law and the law is applied fairly and equally to all. Justice may be blind and everyone may be equal under the law, but all laws may not be applied fairly and this can cause an undue burden.
Take for example before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, there was a poll tax for anyone who voted in the Southern States. They would say the law applied to everyone, but the tax was an undue burden and not everyone could pay the tax, especially those who were poor and in particular African Americans. The poll tax was applied unequally and unfairly with the goal to discourage people from voting at elections. It suppressed the vote and took away people’s civil rights. That is why even today, anything that discourages or hinders people from voting is against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Before the Civil Rights Act, poll taxes created an undue burden and the law was unjust and unfair in its application.
God’s law is eternal and is just, but only if God’s law is applied fairly. This requires imperfect humanity to act in perfect union with God. If we follow the letter of God’s law and what I mean by that, if we read it a literal interpretation that does not appreciate the depth of the meaning of the law of God, we would all wither under that particular type of interpretation and none of us would withstand the judgment which comes from a simplified application of the law. We can look to the first reading from today’s scripture, Second Samuel 12:7-10, King David has greatly sinned. He went against the law and will of God who anointed Him as King of Israel. When he killed Uriah the Hittite and then took his wife as his own, he greatly sinned against God and his neighbor. Basically, he broke most of the Ten Commandments. God sent the Prophet Nathan to David to voice God’s displeasure with David’s sinful conduct. After hearing Nathan’s message from God, David repented by saying, “I have sinned against the Lord.” If David was exposed to the full force of the law, he would be condemned to death. Man’s law would condemn David; God’s law seeks to redeem David. Because God’s law is not about a literal interpretation of the letter of the law, but rather it is about the love of God which gives us the law. God’s love actually guides how the law is applied; take for example Nathan’s response to David after he repented. “The Lord on his part has forgiven your sin: you shall not die.” God’s law is given in love, with justice for all and applied with mercy.
We see the actual application of God’s mercy in Jesus’ encounter with the sinful woman, who by the way is not Mary Magdalene and should never be confused with the sinful woman in Luke 7:36-8:3 or adulterous woman in John 8:1-11. We also see God’s mercy with how Jesus responds to the Pharisee’s criticism of the woman bathing his feet. The Pharisee is an attorney of the Jewish Law and it is his duty to apply the law based on the actions of those who broke God’s law. The sinful woman, based on the information we are given is deemed unclean. This means she is unworthy to touch a Rabbi for which Jesus was and unworthy to sit at the table of a Pharisee.
Depending on the severity of the law broken, she could have been stoned to death. Her entering the home of a Pharisee was an act of brazen boldness. She is taking a great chance, for she could be arrested for her deeds and the law could be applied to her.
She however, has confidence in the mercy of Jesus and the action of anointing and bathing his feet is an outward sign of repentance. This anointing becomes a readying for Jesus’ passion and death on the cross, which brings about the full outpouring of God’s mercy. Jesus after all is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. Jesus provides what the law cannot give, true justice and equality. For when God’s law is applied by God and not by flawed humanity, it is unconditional in its love, just for all and merciful in its application.
Yours in Christ,