From Sinfulness to Devotion

  • September 17, 2020 (readings)
  • Thursday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
  • Carey Boyzuck
  • Luke 7:36-50

    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.”

    Opening Prayer: Lord God, thank you for this teaching about forgiveness and love. As I reflect on your words, please redeem my sinful patterns of behavior, offer me your divine mercy, and move me to love and devote myself to you always.

    Encountering Christ:

    1. Repentance: The first thing we hear about the woman in this Gospel reading is that she learned Jesus was dining at the Pharisee’s house. Someone must have told her, and this was really good news for her! What we do not hear is what she thought and did between hearing the news and showing up at the Pharisee’s home. The movement of her heart toward repentance began when she made the choice to encounter Christ. She must have known that she needed Jesus’s mercy. Upon seeing him, she demonstrated her repentance by bathing his feet with tears and kisses, wiping them clean with her hair, and anointing them with oil from an alabaster flask. Alabaster is a beautiful, precious stone that was used for holding strong perfume. She poured out this fragrant sacrifice of expensive oil on Our Lord’s feet in a spirit of contrition and humility. When we offer a sacrifice to Our Lord, we are also pouring the perfume of our love over his precious feet.

    2. Forgiven: The woman approached Jesus full of hope that she could be forgiven of a sinful pattern of behavior. She wisely knew that she had a large debt she was unable to pay on her own. Sometimes we feel hesitant to come before Jesus and offer him our failures, hurts, and sins. Jesus wants us to approach him full of hope for forgiveness. Only when we understand how much Christ loves us and wants us to be whole, can we approach Christ without any hesitation, unafraid to seek out his mercy. By reflecting on his word, our understanding of his limitless love grows.

    3. Devotion: Western church tradition holds that the unnamed sinful woman who repented in today’s Gospel is St. Mary Magdalene. After her encounter with Jesus, she became his truly devoted disciple. She was a wealthy woman from Magdala who provided for him out of her own resources and followed Jesus even to his cross (see Luke 8:2, John 19:25). Like Mary, we bring our resources to Jesus–our time, talent and treasure–so that he can use them to extend his kingdom. Our heartfelt devotion to Jesus can be a powerful witness to others who might be hesitant to experience his love and mercy. 

    Conversing with Christ: Dear Jesus, I am in awe of how much contrition, care, and love St. Mary Magdalene showed you. I can imagine her tearfully adoring your precious feet. I can see her gently wiping them clean with her own hair. All regard for herself was gone; she was focused only on you. She lavished you with love. She did not speak a word, but her actions spoke the truth in her heart: “Lord, I am sorry for all that I have done. I want to change my life. I never want to return to my old, sinful ways. Lord, I love you. Please have mercy on me.”

    Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will examine my conscience and set a date and time to receive your mercy in the sacrament of reconciliation. 

    For Further Reflection: Read this article from The Divine Mercy website about God’s merciful love and how other denominations view salvation: “How Are We ‘Saved’ by God’s Merciful Love?”


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