Let’s reflect upon Luke 7:36–50[i]:
“A Pharisee invited him to dine with them, and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned he was at table in the house of the Pharisee.”
Are we not all sinners in vital need of God’s mercy?
“Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. She then wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.”
Our sentiments and tears of love and sorrow for our sins and failings are truly a precious ointment that consoles the Merciful Heart of our Lord Jesus.
“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.’”
Lord have mercy! May we all be healed from our tendency to judge others. Only God knows and understands the complex tapestry of each individual’s life including his or her culpability or lack thereof. Besides, we have a lifetime of tough work ahead of us surmounting our own sins and imperfections by crowding them out with our own growth in virtue.
And I expound upon an insight from Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, my hero. How did the Pharisee know the type of woman this was anyway![ii] What was his personal history of contribution toward her “sinfulness”? Did he check the plank in his own eye before condemning this contrite woman, who stood very much higher in Jesus’s eyes than he did? Yes, Jesus most certainly was a Prophet, the Source of all true prophets! He knew who in the room was the person most in need of conversion, and it wasn’t the woman!
How does our Merciful Lord Jesus answer? With one of His parables, of course. The beauty of parables is that each contains an infinity of helpful, truthful nuances, as well as divine guidance, since they are truly the Word of God, a love letter from God to each of us individually.
“Jesus said to him in reply, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’”
And we should reply to Jesus as did the Pharisee, we all have some bit of a Pharisee in us that needs to be purged and healed.
“Tell me, teacher.”
When You speak my name, Lord Jesus, please give us the grace to listen!
Returning to the Gospel:
Jesus 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.’”
We all have debts that need to be brought to our Lord Jesus so that they may be readily forgiven, some larger and some smaller, but all more than we can resolve on our own since we have indebted ourselves through sin against the Infinite. So we are all in the same boat so to speak, the SS Sinner.
“Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman?’”
This is such a powerful statement, a profound statement: “Do you see this woman?” “Do you see this woman?” Do we really see our fellow man as he truly is, a beloved, unique, unrepeatable child of our Heavenly Father, a connected brother or sister, weighed down with countless troubles, and desiring Perfect Love just as we do? Or do we see our neighbors as objects or obstacles?
Adversities in life and prayer are powerful means of helping us to see our neighbor as Jesus sees him or her, with compassion, mercy, empathy, and deep love. Returning to the Gospel:
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.
Here is another awe-inspiring example of God’s ways not being our ways, how His ways are, as a rule, if we can find a rule that applies to God, 180 degrees reverse of our ways. Here He is telling us that one who was the greater sinner is now the greater lover. What love and hope this inspires! This passage has personally given me immense consolation and hope over the years because I have been such a great sinner.
“He said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’”
What incredible peace these words bring when they are spoken by Jesus, especially in the Sacrament of Penance (Confession)! Yes, Jesus is merciful, and “His Mercy endures forever” (Psalm 136:1)[iii] toward everyone who will accept it.
Oh what peace and joy was won by the Blood of our Lord Jesus poured out on the cross for you, yes you personally!
May we never despair. Mercy is always available. We need only take advantage of the opportunity to admit our misery and take advantage of this awesome gift of mercy and forgiveness, while we live and the opportunity exists. And if you are Catholic be not afraid to go to Confession this week. Oh what peace you will experience in this Sacrament of Mercy, and from there you will be ennobled to “show great love”!
By James M. Littleton
President, Co-founder & Co-director of Forming Faithful Families
32 W. Nebraska St.
Frankfort, IL 60423
Copyright 2015 James M. Littleton & Forming Faithful Families
[ii] See Fulton J. Sheen, exact source not found.