Readings: 2 Samuel 12:7-10,13; Galatians2:16, 19-21; Luke 7: 36-8:3
Today’s Mass gives us one of the most beautiful moments in all the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry in Israel. The beauty of this moment stands out all the greater by its contrast to the rudeness which it highlights.
A woman driven by strong feelings of grief of heart and complete self-forgetfulness intrudes on a dinner to which she is not welcome. We don’t know her name. The Gospel text names her a sinful woman and a sinner. Another translation, the Jerusalem Bible, states she had a bad name. Everyone was scandalized that Jesus allowed her to touch him. She didn’t care.
Jesus turns the scandal she creates into a beautiful lesson. I tell you, her many sins are forgiven her because she has shown such great love. Jesus tells her: Your faith had saved you; go now in peace.
That is not what Jesus said to the host of the dinner, the Pharisee. Jesus told him bluntly that he was full of himself and had treated Jesus rudely. His sins, which he would never acknowledge, or even consider to be sins, remain unforgiven. As Jesus said on another occasion, I came not to call the self-righteous but sinners. Clearly, Jesus felt love for this sinful woman. She didn’t give a hoot what anyone else thought of her. What Jesus felt was all that mattered; she would sin no more. She had found God’s peace.
Don’t confuse this report, which is only found in Saint Luke’s Gospel, with a very different experience reported by the three other Gospel writers. That other experience occurred a week before Jesus’ death, when Mary, the sister of Martha, poured precious perfume onto Jesus’ head. The scandal that time was the waste of money, which might have been given to the poor. Jesus knows that he cared more about the poor that those did who were making the complaint! But this too was a beautiful deed, done t prepare his body for its burial. She must not be reprimanded. Both instances show that Jesus was more concerned about the people themselves than he worried about finances–especially if the ones protesting loudest weren’t very known for their generosity to the poor. God sees our heart and knows everyone’s innermost thoughts.
We really need to learn this lesson from today’s Gospel. People come first for God. And the other person comes before my interests. I can always help the poor; those are not either/or choices. But God first; then my neighbor as myself. Is that so hard for us to do?