The webpage of the Youth Ministry of the Irish Province of Augustinians

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C - 16th of June 2013

The hurler on the ditch is a common figure in Irish culture.  Unable to decide what team he supports this figure is imprisoned by his inability to make a commitment.  He consoles himself by knowing better than anyone what those who are actually playing the game should be doing.  Those who are playing don’t have time to roar and shout out advice and complaints but the hurler on the ditch, who doesn’t actually play at all, takes on himself the right to tell others what to do.  However, almost inevitably, the hurler on the ditch is left with an empty feeling.  The thrill of the game and the intensity of the joy of winning or the disappointment of losing are only ever felt by him in a vicarious and secondary way.
We all know those who prefer to hurl on the ditch.  If we are honest, there are probably times when every one of us finds ourselves in this position.
If hurling had existed in Galilee in the time of Jesus Simon would, quite possibly, have been the leader of all hurlers on the ditch.
There is nothing bad about Simon. We are not led to believe that he is in any way nasty or unpleasant.  The common perception that his failing to wash Jesus’ feet is not as straightforward as some might think.  The washing of the feet and the anointing with ointment were actions that were carried out when a Rabbi (teacher) came to call.  These gestures were not used for just anyone. By not performing these actions Simon shows that he does not recognise Jesus as a Rabbi but does not suggest that he was in any way rude to him.
Simon invites Jesus to dinner but doesn’t really know what to do with him – how to react to him, how to treat him.  If he were to treat him badly he may never see Jesus again; if he were to treat him as a Rabbi, however, he would be making a commitment he finds himself unable to make.
The woman, by contrast, presents another extreme.  Not only does she wash his feet and anoint him but she does so in a very dramatic and exceptional way.
This contrast is important. It describes for us the contrast we can find in those who believe in Jesus.  Some are 100% committed and will do anything they can while others are much more cautious.  It fact, it is probably more accurate to say that we are all sometimes 100% committed and we are all also sometimes more cautious.
Today’s gospel passage is written for us – for each one of us.  Its message is clear. Remarkable things will only ever happen when we commit to Jesus in an unequivocal way.  If we are mediocre in the way we approach Jesus we can only ever expect our experience of him to be mediocre.  If, on the other hand, we are able to let down our guard and trust Jesus, then we can expect things to change.
Many of us are so cautious because of our past – things we have done or things that have happened.  The woman forgot her past and looked only at the present where she had Jesus before her.  Simon was much less free. Only when the woman let go of her past was she able to grasp on to Jesus.  The same is true of us. If we are always looking behind to what has happened in the past; if our vision is always clouded by the guilt or shame of what happened in the past, we can not see what is before our very eyes – the free offer of love and forgiveness that Jesus holds up for us.  And it is only when we can give ourselves over to this love and forgiveness that the past will lose its power over us and our focus will move to the future.
Today’s gospel is, in so many ways, an invitation to get off the ditch and become a real hurler (or camogie player!)

Article posted on 11th of June 2013

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