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 http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
Picture this. The night is warm, the room is thick with smoke but redolent with the aroma of wine and rich food. The house swells to the hefty voices of men in conversation, and laughing. There is not a woman to be seen except for the one who invites herself in and moves timidly toward Him reclining at table.
Jesus reads the thoughts of Simon, his host, who is already misjudging his tenderness toward the woman. The calculus of Simon’s legalism and pharisaical rigidity cannot penetrate her motive, cannot comprehend her act of love and confession. Simon recedes into the shadows; he becomes one of ‘them’ obscured in the background by the haze of judgment. But she is drawn by Jesus into posterity, enshrouded by the sacred words he speaks of her action. She is ‘illuminated’ because of her great love. But she remains anonymous because she will become each one of us who at one time or another has sought him out, drawing on a love we may have thought dormant or unworthy.
And what about Simon and his friends? Are we sometimes like them, afraid to open the door and take the hands of those who do not ‘fit’ or who live outside the margins of our righteousness, maybe even our interpretation of ‘right’ practice of the faith? How many are kneeling at the doorsteps of our Church, waiting for us to bring them in, no questions asked, no judgments made, just a welcoming embrace given because they have loved much or they would not be seeking an open door.
—Sr. Mary Ann Flannery, S.C. is Executive Director of Jesuit Retreat House, Cleveland OH.
Lord, sometimes my feelings of guilt can cause me to feel distant from you. I feel unworthy of your love and hesitate to ask for your forgiveness. Yet these are the very moments when you invite us into your love. Your forgiveness is immediate when we admit our wrongdoing and pledge to avoid such behavior. Lord, you welcome us back with arms outstretched.
Sometimes we may find ourselves deeply hurt by another. To forgive seems impossible. We ask, Lord, that you enlighten our hearts and minds so in time we understand what it means to forgive, and we can release ourselves and others from a bitterness that depletes our joy.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team