Grace of Repentance
September 16, 2021 (readings)
- Memorial of Saints Cornelius, Pope, and Cyprian, Bishop, Martyrs
- Cathy Stamper
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, as I read these words today, let me be like the woman in this story: sorry for my sins and consumed with love for you.
A Sinful Woman: We can assume that Simon’s party was held in a gracious home. Suddenly, who should appear but this sinful woman? She was probably very humbly dressed and was certainly not someone that Simon, a Pharisee, would welcome to his home. When she fell at the feet of Jesus, crying over him, letting her hair down, anointing him with oil in front of the assembled guests, she had awkwardly interrupted Simon’s dinner for the celebrity preacher, Jesus, scandalizing Simon and the other guests. In fact, Simon thought to himself, “Jesus must not be a prophet after all since he didn’t even realize how sinful this woman was, and in fact allowed her to touch him.” How far Simon was from comprehending the beauty and holiness of this “sinful woman” who had repented and was worshiping her Lord. How often do we fail to recognize moments of grace among people in our own lives?
A Graceless Host: Simon did not offer Jesus the basic courtesy that a host would extend to a guest in that time period. In fact, as Jesus pointed out, this “sinful woman” was more of a host than the host himself! What was Simon’s motive for inviting Jesus to dinner? Did he want to show Jesus off to his friends? Was he trying to have an intellectual dialogue with Jesus? How often do we invite Jesus to come close but end up keeping him at arm's length because of fear or inconvenience?
A Gracious Guest: Jesus showered an abundance of grace on both the sinful woman and the graceless host. Instead of condemning the woman, he told her that her faith had saved her and that she could go in peace. Instead of condemning Simon for his faults, Jesus answered his unspoken criticism with a question. When Jesus told the tale of two debtors, forgiven for two very different-sized debts, he asked which debtor would be the most grateful. Simon’s response showed that he clearly understood Jesus’s meaning. Jesus had given Simon a chance to reflect on and repent of his cold, judgemental attitudes. Jesus was indeed the most gracious of guests, using his host’s rudeness and condescension as a gentle teaching opportunity for those present and all of us today.
Conversation with Christ: Lord, how easy it can be to be like Simon—to look down on others and judge them. Please make me keenly aware of my own need for grace and salvation. Give me wisdom and charity in my dealings with others.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will pray a decade of the rosary, asking Mary to intercede for me. I will pray to obtain the grace of seeing others as you see them: worthy of love. I will further pray to be aware of my own sinfulness.
For Further Reflection: A Meal with Jesus by Tim Chester.
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