11th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Gospel Reading: Luke 7:36-50
36 One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to a meal. When he arrived at the Pharisee's house and took his place at table,
37 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.
38 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.
39 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.'
40 Then Jesus took him up and, said, 'Simon, I have something to say to you.' 'Speak, Master' was the reply.
41 There was once a creditor who had two men in his debt; one owed him five hundred denarii, the other fifty.
42They were unable to pay, so he pardoned them both. Which of them will love him more?
43 'The one who was pardoned more, I suppose' answered Simon. Jesus said, 'You are right.'
44 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.
45 Yow gave me no kiss, but she has been covering my feet with kisses ever since I came in.
46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.
47 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.'
48 Then he said to her, 'Your sins are forgiven.'
49 Those who were with him at table began to say to themselves, 'Who is this man, that he ei-*sm forgives sins?'
50 But he said to the woman, 'Your faith has saved you go in peace.'
Once again, as in the last two Sundays, we see Jesus relating with people. This time the passage is much more complex. First of all, there are really two stories:
- Jesus relates with the Pharisee in verses 39 to 47.
Jesus relates with the woman in verses 36 to 38 and then again in verses 48 and 50.
St Luke evidently intended the two stories to shed light on each other, but they can also be taken separately.
In either story you can focus on Jesus, noting how he treats each of the two people differently, according to their needs, but being compassionate and respectful to both.
You can identify with the Pharisee, noting his good points as ell as the bad ones, making sure you don't read it self-righteously, but discovering yourself in him.
The woman symbolises all outcasts, those who 'have a bad name in town' for any reason whatsoever. The parable in verse 41 can stand on its own and you may nnd that it touches you.
Verse 49 introduces a group of people 'with Jesus at table'; you may find that you identify with them, or with the way Jesus relates with them in verse 50.
'Of all mankind's needs, the most persistent, terrible and demanding is that which springs from the inescapable fact of sin and the need for forgiveness and redemption. This, first and last, is what priestly ministry is all about.'
Lord, it happened in the past that church leaders put too much stress on sin, so that people were overly burdened by feelings of guilt. As a result, today priests have gone to the other extreme and do not allow us to make the painful journey to repentance. Teach them to be like Jesus, to remain silent and respectful as we wait humbly in the background, weeping for our sins:
- sins of abortion;
- how we have maltreated members of our family;
- our jealousy of those who succeed where we have failed. It is the only way we can know that our sins are forgiven, that deeper than our sinfulness there is a faith which saves us and that we can go in peace.
'Women are more linked than men to the soul of the world, to the primary, elemental forces. Masculine culture is too rational, too far from the immediate mysteries of cosmic life and it returns to it through women.'
Lord, we thank you for the woman in today's gospel story, and we thank you that Jesus defended her against the Pharisee. We pray that our church leaders may do the same for women in the world today.
Lord, in the church today we have a way of categorising certain people as sinners.
We treat them with condescension and speak of 'praying for their conversion'.
But this is not the way of Jesus.
When people came to him who had a bad name in their communities he welcomed them with respect, thanked them for their love, proposed them as models for those who sat at table with him, and assured them that it was their own faith that had saved them.
'No one is so poor that they cannot give, and no one so rich that they
Lord, give to your church the wisdom of Jesus, that like him we may speak the right word to every group - to those who are complacent like the Pharisee, a word of challenge, inviting them to discover their lack of humanity;
to those who are treated as outcasts, like the woman in this story,
a word of encouragement and of healing.
Lord, in life we receive countless lessons that leave us unmoved.
But every once in a way you send us someone like Jesus, one of our parents or relatives, a teacher, a spiritual guide.
They walk with us in our search for the truth; 'I have something to say to you' they tell us, and then they wait for us to ask them before they continue.
They tell us stories, and let us discover for ourselves the lesson they want us to draw, assuring us then that we were right. Thank you, Lord, for those teachers.
Lord, when we come to positions of authority in a community, whether in the State or in the church, we soon become cold and business-like in our relationships with people.
We no longer welcome them warmly or show them signs of affection.
It is because we are complacent.
But you always seem to send us some Jesus who reminds us of the many things people have had to pardon us so that we could get where we now are.
Lord, there is within each one of us a sinful person waiting in the shadows
and needing to be recognised and accepted.
Do not let the Pharisee in us repress that part of ourselves as if good people should not let themselves be touched by sin.
Lord, truly kind people have an extraordinary power.
Such people are the presence of Jesus with us.
We who live with them are constantly amazed at how they can make others experience that their sins are forgiven.