“THE WOMAN WHO WAS A SINNER” (Lk 7:36–50).
“So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven.”
A certain Pharisee invited Jesus to dine with him, and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee. Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, 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 and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he 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.” Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? 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.” He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The others at table said to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” But he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Gospel Commentary from the Navarre Bible, Commentary to the Gospel of St. Luke (with permission)
- 36-40 This woman, moved no doubt by grace, was attracted by Christ’s preaching and by what people were saying about him.
- When dining, people reclined on low divans leaning on their left arm with their legs tucked under them, away from the table.
- A host was expected to give his guest a kiss of greeting and offer him water for his feet, and perfumes.
- 41-50 In this short parable of the two debtors Christ teaches us three things — his own divinity and his power to forgive sins; the merit the woman’s love deserves; and the discourtesy implied in Simeon’s neglecting to receive Jesus in the conventional way.
- Our Lord was not interested in these social niceties as such but in the affection which they expressed: that was why he felt hurt at Simeon’s neglect.
- “Jesus notices the omission of the expression of human courtesy and refinement which the Pharisee failed to show him. Christ is perfectus Deus, perfectus homo (Quicumque Creed). He is perfect God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, and perfect man. He comes to save, not to destroy nature. It is from him that we learn that it is unchristian to treat our fellow men badly, for they are creatures of God, made to his image and likeness (Gen 1:26)” (St. Josemaria, Friends of God, 73).
- Moreover, the Pharisee was wrong to think badly of this sinner and of Jesus: reckoning that Christ did not know anything about her, he complained inwardly.
- Our Lord, who could read the secret thoughts of men (which showed his divinity), intervenes to point out to him his mistake. True righteousness, says St Gregory the Great (cf. In Evangelia homiliae, 33), is compassionate; whereas false righteousness is indignant.
- There are many people like this Pharisee: forgetting that they themselves were or are poor sinners, when they see other people’s sin they immediately become indignant, instead of taking pity on them, or else rush to judge them or sneer at them. They forget what St Paul says: “Lest any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor 10:12); “Brethren, if any man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. . . Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal 6:1-2) …
- We should strive to have charity govern all our judgments. Otherwise, we will easily be unjust towards others.
- “Let us be slow to judge. Each one sees things from his own point of view, as his mind, with all its limitations, tells him, and through eyes that are often dimmed and clouded by passion.
- “Of what little worth are the judgments of men! Don’t judge without sifting your judgment in prayer” (J. Escrivá, The Way, 451).
- Charity and humility will allow us to see in the sins of others our own weak and helpless position, and will help our hearts go out to the sorrow of every sinner who repents, for we too would fall into sins as serious or more serious if God in his mercy did not stay by our side.
- “It was not the ointment that the Lord loved,” St Ambrose comments, “but the affection; it was the woman’s faith that pleased him, her humility. And you also, if you desire grace, increase your love; pour over the body of Jesus Christ your faith in the Resurrection, the perfume of the holy Church and the ointment of charity towards others” (Expositio Evangelii sec. Lucam, in loc.).
- 47 Man cannot merit forgiveness for his sins because, since God is the offended party, they are of infinite gravity. We need the Sacrament of Penance, in which God forgives us by virtue of the infinite merits of Jesus Christ; there is only one indispensable condition for winning God’s forgiveness — our love, our repentance.
- We are pardoned to the extent that we love; and when our heart is full of love there is no longer any room in it for sin, because we have made room for Jesus, and he says to us as he said to this woman, “Your sins are forgiven”.
- Repentance is a sign that we love God. But it was God who first loved us (cf. 1 Jn 4:10). When God forgives us he is expressing his love for us. Our love for God is, then, always a response to his initiative. By forgiving us God helps us to be more grateful and more loving towards him.
- “He loves little,” St Augustine comments, “who has little forgiven. You say that you have not committed many sins: but why is that the case? … The reason is that God was guiding you… There is no sin that one man commits, which another may not commit also unless God, man’s maker, guides him” (Sermon, 99, 6).
- Therefore, we ought to fall ever more deeply in love with our Lord, not only because he forgives us our sins but also because he helps us by means of his grace not to commit them.
- 50 Jesus declares that it was faith that moved this woman to throw herself at his feet and show her repentance; her repentance wins his forgiveness.
- Similarly, when we approach the Sacrament of Penance we should stir up our faith in the fact that it is “not a human but a divine dialogue. It is a tribunal of divine justice and especially of mercy, with a loving judge who ‘has no pleasure in the death of the wicked; I desire that the wicked turn back from his way and live’ (Ezek 33:11)” (St. Josemaria, Christ is passing by, 78).
TOPIC 1: ARE YOU A FORGIVING PERSON, OR DO YOU CONSTANTLY HAROR BITTERNESS AND RESENTMENT?
1st Reading 1 Timothy 4:12-16Responsorial Psalm Psalms 111:7-8, 9, 10Alleluia Matthew 11:28Gospel Luke 7:36-50
In today’s gospel reading, we read this compelling story only found in the book of Luke. We find Jesus invited into the house of Simon, a Pharisee. A woman, a sinner – perhaps, a prostitute, or at least a promiscuous one – bursts into the scene, bringing an alabaster box of ointment. She begins to cry and her tears fall upon Jesus’ feet. She dries her feet with her long hair, kisses them and anoints them with ointment. Simon is shocked at the intrusion. He must have thought that if Jesus is the prophet He is touted to be, He should condemn her and drive her away for she is a sinner.
TOPIC 2: DO WE PUT LABELS ON PEOPLE AND JUDGE THEM FOR THE SINS OF THEIR PAST?
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