One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.’ Jesus spoke up and said to him, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ ‘Teacher,’ he replied, ‘speak.’ ‘A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?’ Simon answered, ‘I suppose the one for whom he cancelled the greater debt.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You have judged rightly.’ Then turning towards the woman, he said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.’ Then he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’ And he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved. http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translation
Imagine you’ve twisted your ankle while playing soccer and you’ve been taken to the Emergency Room. You’re in a bit of pain, but are generally feeling okay. However, your coach and your parents want to get an X-ray to be sure your injuries aren’t severe. You check in at the hospital and are told to have a seat and wait until your name is called. Suddenly, the doors slide open and a stretcher is rushed in. The patient on the gurney is writhing in pain and you see blood seeping through the thin sheet that covers her torso. Fortunately at that moment, a doctor emerges from the back and hurries towards the waiting area. To your surprise, the physician brushes right past the new arrival and shakes your hand, “Great job,” he tells you, glancing at your grass-stained uniform, “exercise is the key to a long and healthy life.”
You’ll likely never experience this because hospitals use a brilliant (and quite obvious) system of triage – those with the most pressing injuries are treated before those with minor problems.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is calling the church to a sort of spiritual triage. In his 2013 interview with America Magazine, our Holy Father Pope Francis remarked, “I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds.”
Am I more like the “sinful” woman? Or am I more like the Pharisee? Do I extend and receive grace and mercy freely? Or do I look down on those who I consider unworthy? Do I recognize my own sinfulness and see that I need to have my debts forgiven? Or am I convinced I can pay it all myself?
—Mattie Olsen teaches Theology at Creighton Prep.
“Let the Church always be a place of mercy and hope, where everyone is welcomed, loved, and forgiven.”