Kiss me with the kisses of your mouth ...
Readings: 2 Samuel 12:7-10, 13; Psalm 32; Galatians 2:16, 19-21; Luke 7:36-8:3
"O truly necessary sin of Adam... O happy fault, that merited so great a Redeemer!" These words from the 'Exsultet' express the mystery of sin which, according to mystics like Julian of Norwich and the Church Father, St Irenaeus, is in some way 'necessary'. For Irenaeus, sin is an important aspect of divine pedagogy - not that God actually instigated sin directly, but he set up the world in such a way that sin was extremely likely to take place, and could be treated as one possible way of making Adam realise his dependence on God. St John Damascene considers that God permits people to fall into the more obvious kinds of carnal sin as an antidote to pride. The Desert Fathers particularly taught that where sin existed, grace abounded still more (see Romans 5:20). One of the Tempter's greatest feats is to convince the sinner that he is unworthy or should be too ashamed to approach God. Yet, it is surely those who have sinned who most need Christ, the heavenly physician.
This is strikingly expressed by Macarius' story of a monk who could not get the better of his sensual temptations. This monk prayed:
"Lord, whether I want it or not, save me, because dust and ashes that I am, I love sin; but you are God almighty, so stop me yourself. If you have pity on the just, that is not much, nor if you save the pure, because they are worthy of your mercy. Show the full splendour of your mercy in me, reveal in me your love for men, because the poor man has no other refuge but you."The woman in today's Gospel knew this too, and she came to Jesus, full of love, because she was full of sin. As she recognised the depth of her sin, she also learnt that she needed Christ's forgiveness and, in gratitude for God's tender and fathomless mercy, she responded with extravagant gestures of love - washing Christ's feet with her tears, wiping them with her hair, kissing them continuously and anointing them with costly ointment.
This is only fitting because God first loved us and is prodigal with His love for us: God has anointed and kissed us sinners.
In the Song of Songs, the poem opens with the lines: "You have kissed me with the kisses of your mouth" and mystics like St John of the Cross and the Church Father, Origen, have understood this as referring to the coming of Christ: "No, let [God] not speak to me through His servants, angels or prophets! Let Him come himself and kiss me with the kisses of His mouth!", and Christ comes to us in the Eucharist. Moreover, the Fathers have considered this verse to reveal the Trinity: God the Father is the the source of Love, the mouth is His only Son, Jesus Christ, and His kiss is the Holy Spirit. As such, the kiss that unites Father and Son in love is bestowed on us to unite us in that same divine love. Likewise, the Spirit is the "sweet anointing from above" that has caused us to be adopted as sons and daughters of God. Thus God has kissed and anointed us with his grace.
These past Sundays, we have been celebrating these great gifts of God's love - from Pentecost to Corpus Christi - and today's Gospel indicates the response of faith and love that we sinners can offer to God whose mercy endures forever.