Readings: 2 Samuel 12:7-10, 13; Galatians 2:16, 19-21; Luke 7:36-8:3
There’s so much that today’s Gospel doesn’t tell us. For example, I grew up assuming that this anonymous woman was a prostitute, more victim than villain; but nothing in the text says that. She could have been particularly cruel to her family and neighbors; or cheated people out of their property; or maligned peoples’ reputations. There are many ways to be a sinner and aren’t women as imaginative as men?
Who were the other guests? Are any of the apostles there or did Jesus finally get away from them for a while? Was the meal as stingy as the Pharisee’s welcome? If the narrative is succinct, I presume St. Like means to focus the story we’ve just heard.
I don’t believe that Jesus is standing up for the underdog in this episode. This woman, in her sinning, may not have been a victim but may have preyed on the weak. If she’s not a real sinner and this is only a charade, there’s not much point to the incident. And I believe that Jesus is getting to a deeper issue: can I recognize a real relationship with God? What kind of living brings me closer to God? Or brings the Kingdom of God closer to us?
What has brought this woman to her knees? What has broken her heart, making her pour out tears as well as ointment on the feet of Jesus? Could the upright confines of the Pharisee’s very correct, narrowly measured life ever yield such a gesture? Is his a truly good life: living out a check list of do’s and don’ts? Does this woman’s action remind you of anyone you know? What kind of person is capable of such silent eloquence? Would I be moved by such an out-pouring or would I be put off? Why does Jesus commend someone like her or the tax-collector who beat his breast and prayed, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner?”
From what Jesus says, was it any virtue of this woman that suddenly allows her to love? Was it the madcap daring of a fun-loving Auntie Mame that permits her to throw caution to the wind? Or is it her poverty? Is she receptive only because she has exhausted all her cleverness, all her resources? Is that what makes a relationship with God real? Is that what makes goodness come alive? To reach my limits, then to respond, to be able to change and wake up! Does God only become real when God is no longer an accessory for my goals or a compliment for my talents? Is that when I would be as free to love as this woman?
Can you recall ever being so humiliated, so exposed in your faultiness that there were no pretensions to hide behind and everything became transparent and luminous? Can you remember an incident when shame stopped being important and God’s grace filled everything? Isn’t that where God can be received without reserve?