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 canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward 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.
I learned from a Catholic archaeologist that women from Mary Magdalene’s time would collect their tears in tiny vials. He said that when women married, they would give this vial to their husbands—that is to say, they handed over to his care everything that was most precious to them, in sorrow and in joy. In tradition, we know Magdalene as the woman who anointed Jesus with oil and her tears and then dried him with her hair, she who, having been forgiven much loved much.
When Magdalene washed Christ’s feet, some believe it may have been with the tears from this little vial, tears that marked the most precious moments of her life. That in this gesture, she was giving to Jesus everything most precious to her, entrusting to him everything that mattered to her heart.
This is the Magdalene I treasure most and so long to be.
—Liz Kelly is the author of the award-winning Jesus Approaches published by Loyola Press and trained as a director in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.
Good and gracious God, we know that we can come to you in times of joy and times of sorrow. We offer you those things that are most precious to us, trusting that you will remain with us throughout our lives. We pray this in the name of Jesus, our brother and friend. Amen.
—The Jesuit Prayer team
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