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.
Enter into today’s Gospel reading with a prayerful, imaginative contemplation.From whose perspective do you pray? The Pharisee? The sinful woman? A bystander? Jesus?
I pray this passage and want to be the sinful woman, lavishing the merciful Jesus with gifts of kindness, expensive ointment, and service. No luck. My imagination keeps placing me in the chair of the Pharisee, who has sought relationship with Jesus, maybe with ulterior motives, and who falls into the predictable paradigm of the judging, self-righteous scold. I don’t want to be there.
Yet, there must be some truth in my identifying with the Pharisee. Am I too focused on what being close to Jesus can get for me? Am I too preoccupied in my following the letter of the Commandments, the Law, the Talmud, the Magisterium? Will I continue to force my adherence to the surface of legal or pious requirements upon every sinner in my sphere? Can I be humble enough to forget my own position and proximity to Jesus in order to celebrate. I want to be joyful like all those in Chapter 7 of Luke: the sinful one who receives God’s mercy and loves recklessly in return, the widow whose son Jesus raised from the dead, the centurion who humbly believed in Jesus’ power to heal, John the Baptist who knows Jesus as Messiah from his words and actions and not simply because Jesus proclaimed it.
Jesus, thank you for being close to me. Even when I am too doctrinaire, proper, even self-righteous, you want to be close to me. Do we have room for other sinners in this relationship? I may doubt so, but you not only know that we have the room for others but even that I need the company. May the joyfully repentant sinners teach me how to be closer to you. Amen.
—Jim Broderick KingPlease share the Good Word with your friends!