Those who identify with our sacred authors' faith are convinced that God not only can, but often does, work through individuals who aren't exactly "good folk."

Nowhere is this insight clearer than in Sunday's first reading (II Samuel 12:7-10,13).

Though David has gone down in history as the greatest Jewish king, rarely are we encouraged to imitate his personal life. He is the Bible's worst parent, an adulterer and a murderer.

Confession

In the passage immediately preceding our liturgical selection, David engages in sex with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, one of his mercenaries.

Determined to cover up the pregnancy resulting from this illicit encounter, David eventually arranges for the hapless husband to be "accidentally" killed by the enemy. Only Nathan the prophet has the courage to confront the king, warning, "The sword shall never depart from your house."

To David's credit, he admits, "I have sinned against Yahweh," which forces the prophet to take away some of God's punishment. Yet Yahweh's forgiveness neither takes away the sinful dimensions of David's personality, nor limits God's ability to accomplish good through him.

Jesus of Nazareth shared that aspect of biblical faith. Though some liberal Scripture scholars question how much we actually can know about the historical Jesus, not even they deny that He related to sinners in a way that created problems for pious people.

No matter the sins of the woman in Sunday's Gospel (Luke 7:36-8:3), Jesus demands that Simon, her critic, also acknowledge the good in her act of anointing: "Her many sins have been forgiven because she has shown great love....The one to whom little is forgiven loves little."

St. Paul shows that Jesus' earliest followers imitated their mentor's knack of cutting through the externals and surfacing a person's real psyche (Galatians 2:16,19-21).

Writing against those who taught that it is essential for Christians to follow Moses' 613 laws, the Apostle states, "We...know that a person is not justified by works of the law, but through faith in Christ Jesus."

Limitless God

No one should skip over the last three verses of Sunday's Gospel. Both Mark and Matthew mention the women on Good Friday who looked on while Jesus was crucified, women who "had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him." But only Luke mentions the presence of these women in Jesus' life and ministry long before Good Friday.

Luke's Jesus is just one chapter away from beginning His momentous 11-chapter journey to Jerusalem when the evangelist tells readers about His traveling companions: "Accompanying Him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities,...who provided for them out of their resources."

From that point, whenever Luke refers to Jesus' disciples, we're to presume they're both male and female, a fact many through the centuries have conveniently overlooked.

No one should be surprised at Jesus' openness to women. He experienced God as present and working in all people. Perhaps that's why Paul, one chapter after Sunday's second reading, reminds his readers that they're to imitate the risen Jesus' distinctive trait of breaking through racial, social and gender limits.

Those who can't pull that off are guilty not only of professing a non-biblical faith, but also of putting limits on God.

(6/14/07)