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Luke 7:36-50

The Word of God

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 cancelled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?' Simon answered, 'I suppose the one for whom he cancelled the greater debt.' And Jesus said to him, 'You have judged rightly.' Then turning towards 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.'

Luke 7:36-50
  • Some thoughts on today's scripture

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    • This puzzling episode shows that not all pharisees were hardened opponents of Jesus and that within the pharisaic group there were divisions, and so we here have a pharisee entertaining Jesus. But it is not that simple; for while he entertains Jesus, he omits acts of hospitality and Jesus then contrasts that with the superabundant generosity of the ‘sinner’. The passage can, therefore, be taken as a lesson on what is important, and Jesus makes it clear that generosity trumps legalistic practises.
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    • The courtesy and polish of the Pharisee, Simon, kept up appearances; the polite invitation masked a dismissive judgement and left unchallenged the unwelcome woman. Jesus saw through the veneer, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” In the presence of Jesus, I can trust him to say what he needs to say to me, knowing that he will speak with love and will accompany me in finding life.
    • Jesus is able to recognise what is present in Simon and in the woman. He sees the movement of grace in the “bad woman” and the stiff resistance of the “good man”. Here, before Jesus, I pray that I may notice in my life where God is already at work and have the grace to yield to what God wants to do next.
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    • This extravagant gesture by this woman is hard for us to understand. Yet it was her way of trying to say thanks for whatever she must have received from Jesus. Simon, on the other hand, not knowing the lovely interior movements of her heart, judges her by the external knowledge that he has of her. Jesus goes to great trouble to tell Simon the deeper meaning of her actions and how much he appreciates her response.
    • Have you ever been misjudged for something you did? It’s very hurtful. We can always ask the Lord to help us not to judge others too quickly. It gives you an inner spirit of freedom when you are charitable in thought about others.
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    • Here we see how God's mercy really verges on the scandalous: we need to look at it at length to be able to penetrate its depths. This is what we are celebrating during this Year of Mercy: that in Jesus we see the real quality of the Father's mercy.
    • What would my reaction have been if I had been the Pharisee or one of the other guests? Would I too have been scandalised by the woman's behaviour and by Jesus' reaction? Or I may choose to imagine myself as the woman herself, unable to control my gratitude. Or Jesus himself, who decides to accept this shocking behaviour to help us understand God's mercy and his attitude to sinners.
    • I ask to be merciful like the Father.
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    • Notice how much of the Gospels is centred on meals. So true is this that it has been said that you could ‘eat’ your way through the New Testament!
    • Like this anonymous woman, I am searching for Jesus, and I bring my sinfulness with me. In some way, that sinfulness is my gift to him. I observe his respect for her: he could have recoiled from her touch and demanded that she be thrown out. Instead he has all the time in the world for her, and he has endless time for me too. He notices small gestures – the tiny touches of love shown in water, oil, tears, kisses.
    • What small gestures of love can I show him? This woman is simple, extravagant, humble, trusting. Let me learn from her and so come closer to Jesus.
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    • Simon had life mapped out: he had decided who deserved his attention and how they might be honoured. He invited Jesus as a guest but withheld courtesy; he was prepared to listen to the words of Jesus but not ready to receive them in his heart. I ask God to help me, as I review my life, to recognise and remove any ways in which I resist God’s word.
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    • The Pharisee is surprised and shocked when Jesus allows a sinner to touch him. He has yet to understand that Jesus welcomes and heals sinners. But he does not think of himself as in need of healing. Did he perhaps reflect later over this incident and learn something?
    • All sinners have a future – Lord, let me never despair of myself, since you do not do so. Forgiveness is for all, and the greater the need the more generous God’s response is.
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    • A Pharisee named Simon, wrapped in the cloak of social respectability, watches with critical gaze, closed mind and a judgemental heart. His image is of a God who doesn’t mix with sinners. He despises this woman, who has no name but ‘sinner’. Yet she recognises her need of Jesus, and encounters his compassionate gaze, his total forgiveness and his peace. Tears of gratitude flow from her converted heart. Simon, however, who feels no need of forgiveness, misses the point completely.
    • Lord, when I am narrow-minded, remind me that expansive forgiveness is your constant response to the darkness of my soul. May your compassionate gaze illuminate the closed-off places within me that need your unconditional and forgiving love.
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    • This is a story of extravagance and generosity. The ointment was expensive - and so was the alabaster jar. The woman whom nobody wanted near the table or the feast was extravagant in love. Somehow Jesus’ forgiving love had got through to her and she responded as best she knew – giving something really expensive - her way of giving all. Jesus saw beyond the sin and behind the oil to the love. That would conquer all in the end.
    • The jar of ointment was expensive, and highlights the generosity of the unnamed woman who was a sinner. Somehow the compassion and forgiveness of Jesus hit her so deeply that she poured out love for him as a response to her relationship with him. In prayer we can sometimes think of God's care, protection and forgiveness in our lives, and be grateful, with words or in silence.
    • The courtesy and polish of the Pharisee, Simon, kept up appearances; the polite invitation masked a dismissive judgement and left unchallenged the unwelcome woman. Jesus saw through the veneer, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” In the presence of Jesus, I can trust him to say what he needs to say to me, knowing that he will speak with love and will accompany me in finding life.
    • Jesus is able to recognise what is present in Simon and in the woman. He sees the movement of grace in the “bad woman” and the stiff resistance of the “good man”. Here, before Jesus, I pray that I may notice in my life where God is already at work and have the grace to yield to what God wants to do next.