September 17, 2020, Thursday of the 24th Week of Ordinary Time
Scripture: Luke 7:36-50
One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.’
Jesus spoke up and said to him, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ ‘Teacher,’ he replied, ‘speak.’
‘A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?’ Simon answered, ‘I suppose the one for whom he cancelled the greater debt.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You have judged rightly.’ Then turning towards the woman, he said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.’ Then he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’
But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’ And he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’
“‘Do you see this woman?“
Simon the Pharisee bears a striking resemblance to another man in Luke’s Gospel: the Pharisee in the parable who found himself in the Temple with a tax collector. Like the unnamed Pharisee, Simon assumes he knows the other person’s relationship with God. Jesus, as usual, responds to the occasion with a parable, this time about two debtors. If the woman, because she is forgiven much, shows great love, Simon needs forgiveness for his “lesser” debt, too.
Simon may not have had any big-ticket items on his debit sheet with God, but as Jesus lists his omissions, one by one, it all seems to add up to a kind of contempt —- or at the very least, indifference toward Jesus. Even the fact of the lesser debt is a sign of equal, if not greater, weakness on his part: it is one thing to be incapable of repaying an enormous sum —- but to need to have a paltry debt written off? Simon just doesn’t have eyes to see how much God in his mercy has forgiven him. He can’t take his eyes off the woman at Jesus’ feet.
Neither can Jesus. At the end of his life, when Jesus himself wants to make a striking statement about the reverence, love, and humility his disciples owe one another, he will do for his disciples something very much like what this woman did for him. He knows the image will stay with the disciples.
Lord, I imagine that, like Simon, I don’t notice my omissions. That is probably because my attention is misdirected. Help me to keep my gaze on you, and to begin to see as you see.
“I keep the LORD ever before me” (Ps. 16:8).