Saturday, 11 June 2016


Sunday GospelLuke 7:36-8:3 

One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to a meal. When he arrived at the Pharisee’s house and took his place at table, a woman came in, who had a bad name in the town. She had heard he was dining with the Pharisee and had brought with her an alabaster jar of ointment. She waited behind him at his feet, weeping, and her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them away with her hair; then she covered his feet with kisses 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 this woman is that is touching him and what a bad name she has.’ Then Jesus took him up and said, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ ‘Speak, Master’ was the reply. ‘There was once a creditor who had two men in his debt; one owed him five hundred denarii, the other fifty. They were unable to pay, so he pardoned them both. Which of them will love him more?’ ‘The one who was pardoned more, I suppose’ answered Simon. Jesus said, ‘You are right.’
  Then he turned to the woman. ‘Simon,’ he said ‘you see this woman? I came into your house, and you poured no water over my feet, but she has poured out her tears over my feet and wiped them away with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but she has been covering my feet with kisses ever since I came in. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. For this reason I tell you that her sins, her many sins, must have been forgiven her, or she would not have shown such great love. It is the man who is forgiven little who shows little love.’ Then he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ Those who were with him at table began to say to themselves, ‘Who is this man, that he even forgives sins?’ But he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’
  Now after this he made his way through towns and villages preaching, and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom of God. With him went the Twelve, as well as certain women who had been cured of evil spirits and ailments: Mary surnamed the Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and several others who provided for them out of their own resources.

It's a risky business being a churchgoer. So easy to become comfortable with our place in the scheme of things; our right to be acknowledged as a follower. We can include Jesus in our lives with a simple prayer of invitation and believe that the Jesus we believe in is all that Jesus is about.

It depends, I suppose, on whether you experience God as a 'want' or a 'need'.

For Simon, it is clearly about status; particularly his status. It is a matter of pride that he is the one to offer hospitality to the infamous Rabbi who has been filling the countryside with his teachings of justice and generosity. Perhaps his intention to show Jesus that he not one of 'those' Pharisees. And now. whilst his mouth says 'Master', his thoughts say 'Fool'; and perhaps 'More fool, me' for being taken in by a charlatan. He stands erect and in judgement - of everyone but himself.

For the woman, who has no status, it is about offering hospitality before any sense of pride; the hospitality of the gestures and intimate offering of her own self - echoed in the value of the ointment. The tears that flow mix with the perfumed oils, emptying from the broken body of her sinfulness. She is poured out on the floor believing that she, of everyone there, is unworthy.

There is a tension between the two - high and low - suspicion and surrender. 

Jesus sits between the two - challenged to bring it all back into balance. 

When Jesus announces 'It is the man who is forgiven little who shows little love,' there is no doubt to whom he is speaking.  Simon is judged by his owns standards and there is, in all honesty, no place for him to go but to his knees.

To be able to 'go in peace', the woman must get up; she is raised up into a place of honour; all her sins are forgiven; a gift given only by God. I imagine her helped to her feet and held by Jesus, the Son of God.  The ointment and the tears - of joy this time - imprinted on both of them, a scented prayer of thanksgiving. 

In the meantime the rest of the party draw back, embarrassed and defiant.

The willingness to surrender is often illustrated by  the women in Luke's gospel; those who are knowingly overpowered by the world are spiritually empowered by Love. I am continually caught by the instruction in the Lectionary that indicates that the final paragraph which includes the women disciples, is not required to be read out at Mass. How lovely, this week, to hear that Mary Magdalene has been acknowledged as 'apostle to the apostles' and her memorial day elevated to a feast day.  

Of course, you don't need to be a woman to know that feeling of being overwhelmed but you do need to have the willingness to let go of the control you believe you have over your life.

 Jesus is, by no means, an easy guest; he may come by invitation but he stays for his own reasons. What he calls out of you may not be what you want him to see. Yet it will be the part that needs him; the part that will surely be raised up in healing, reconciliation and his divine love. 


1 comment:

Lynda said...

Thank you so very much for this deeply inspirational post. This is one of my favourite scenes in the gospels and I have reflected on it many times. Your reflection very powerfully drew me right into the scene with Jesus. Blessings!