A certain Pharisee invited Jesus to dine with him, and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee. Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. “Two people were in debt to a certain creditor; one owed five hundred days’ wages and the other owed fifty. Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both. Which of them will love him more?” Simon said in reply, “The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.” He said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment. So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The others at table said to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” But he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:36-50)
Today’s scripture is replete with several messages. For me, this a beautiful story of a hand extended in love met by a heart filled with love.
The “back story” of course begins with how rude Simon had been to Jesus from the time he entered his home. Notice the signs of respect that were not given to Jesus, as a respected guest in his host’s home. He was here judging Jesus.
But the sinful woman has heard of Jesus. She has probably heard his teaching. She has heard his gracious words of God’s love and forgiveness and healing and restoration.Her self-image is tattered and ragged. She is shunned by the best people and used and abused by the worst. Yes, she is still broken, but now she can see light and hope beyond.
Jesus, the ultimate source of love, sees her heart and recognizes her need for forgiveness. He doesn’t judge. He doesn’t put her in a category or attach a label. He recognizes a person who needs forgiveness so that she can move on with her life.
Our Lord’s loving treatment of both the woman and of Simon displays a remarkable balance of kindness. He carefully avoids the opposite extremes of condemnation and indifference to others’ sins. The reason Our Lord is able to offer hope and consolation to the repentant sinner as well as to invite the proud with a gentle call to repentance is that Christ will die for both. In this we see Christ’s goodness. He comes to save us all, but we must choose to accept his goodness.
Christ stands before each of us, and offers us his friendship. The more we accept His offer, the more we are transformed to become what we are meant to be. His offer of friendship is accepted by opening our hearts to allow Jesus in without fear or obstacles.
Accepting Jesus’ friendship empowers us to do what others would never dream possible for us. We are asked to put aside our judgement and labels. We are called to be God’s hands now, hands to comfort and welcome the sinner or someone who may have offended us; we are God’s heart now—hearts to love and forgive and refuse to hang on to bitterness. The divine within us calls us to understand one another so we can forgive and then be free to love. A contemporary poet puts the question to us with these words: “Is there anyone we wouldn’t love if only we knew their story?” “Is there anyone we wouldn’t forgive if only we knew their story?” Accepting Jesus as our friend, frees us from baggage of the past, so that we can live the life of Jesus fully now.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, your grace is sufficient for me. Fill my heart with love and gratitude for the mercy you have shown to me and give me joy and freedom to love and serve others with kindness and respect.”
“Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Those last three words are just as important as the others. Go in peace. They express the great gift of forgiveness – freedom, the freedom to be whole, to be at peace with oneself and one’s community. We’re no longer bound by guilt or shame; we’re no longer bound by holding on to the righteousness of someone else having hurt us. Henri Nouwen calls it “the freedom to move on.”