A WOMAN FORGIVEN (LUKE 7:36-8:3),Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 16, 2013, Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
A WOMAN FORGIVEN (LUKE 7:36-8:3)
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 16, 2013
Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
The story of Cinderella has appealed for centuries to people in many nations. The story was collected among the fairy tales of the Grimm brothers, and we relish this account for several reasons, perhaps most of all because we cherish the change in Cinderella from despised servant girls to cherished princess.
In this account, a fairy godmother changes a pumpkin into a golden carriage, some mice into horses, and lizards into liveried servants. Cinderella’s rags turn into a jeweled gown, and now she wears delicate glass slippers. However, when the clock begins the stroke of midnight, Cinderella must leave in haste, but a glass slipper falls awry. Eventually, the prince finds and marries Cinderella who has changed from the despised and belittled servant girl among the cinders into the enchanting maid chosen by the prince.
The movement from demeaned to cherished person wins our wonder, for who among us does not imagine ourselves to be of more worth than others might estimate. Adults might cherish this core story, even when they recognize the fairy tale wrapping. The tinsel appearance, however, gives way to a more realistic happening when we read in the Old Testament of King David’s sinful action in taking Bathsheba, another man’s wife, for his own wife.
Nathan, the prophet, speaks sharply to his king, accusing King David of using the enemy to kill Uriah, Bathsheba’s lawful husband.
Nathan said to David: “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: …. “Why, David, have you spurned the Lord and done evil in his sight? You have cut down Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you took his wife as your own, and him you killed with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me….’” Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan answered David: “The Lord on his part has forgiven your sin: you shall not die.” (2 Samuel 12:7-10, 13)
Even though the king did not himself kill this man, nonetheless David arranged that the enemy Ammonites should strike down Uriah, and the evil is imputed to David. Still, upon David’s acknowledging his crime, God forgives this sin. Today’s gospel recalls another incident in which God forgives sin.
A sin contravenes the moral order. Even more, however, it is the treacherous heart from which a sin proceeds. Sin is a kind of power in the person, a power by which a person may act against the word of God. Often enough we distinguish between mortal and venial sin, but contemporary theologians suggest a threefold division of sin: mortal, serious, and venial. Like offenses in a family when a relative speaks and acts with vigorous meanness, some venial sins can be serious without rupturing the relation with God.Venial sin, when committed with a less intense assertion of self-indulgence free from the Creator, a less central depth of personal freedom away from the Lord, remains compatible with the love of God yet alive in the person. Even in our meanness, we still seek to grow in adhering to God, and we open ourselves to the love of Christ being poured into our hearts.
Simon, a Pharisee, brings Jesus into his home, and Simon invites Jesus to sit at table and to dine with him. Their sharing of the meal is interrupted by a woman widely known as a serious sinner in the city. Overcome with emotion, she weeps. She washes Jesus feet with her tears. Unloosing her hair, she dries his feet, kisses them, and anoints them with ointment. Jesus accepts her actions, but Simon—the host—does not. This host thinks to himself and judges. “If Jesus were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.”
Simon in his own mind pronounces judgment both on Jesus and on this unnamed but sorrowing woman. Jesus challenges Simon’s evaluation. Jesus uses a parable about the forgiveness of two debtors. Both debtors are unable to pay what they owe; the master generously forgives both debtors, although one owes ten times as much as the other. The point of this parable is that the depth of gratitude is proportionate to one’s recognized need for forgiveness.
Jesus contrasts the woman’s actions and Simon’s reception of his guest. Simon provided no water, no kiss, and no oil. The woman bathed Jesus with her tears, kissed his feet repeatedly, and used her costly ointment to anoint Jesus’ feet. Nothing suggests that Simon acted incorrectly, but his actions are perfunctory etiquette than honoring Jesus. Jesus is a guest—just not a welcome guest.
The woman, however, acted with a humility sorrowing her entire self; her actions reflect her gratitude for having been forgiven her sin. She transcends etiquette, and her whole soul appears in her drinking the wine of personal shame with repentance. Her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown her love. The woman’s actions demonstrate that she understands Jesus’ forgiveness.
Simon, the host, has lost himself in his judgments. If Simon achieves forgiveness, we have no record of it. We view Simon as a person confident of the self-judging others. He apparently has no sense of God’s wanting the people, of God’s seeking you and me.
We need only admit our smallness compared to the great God, and confess our unworthiness before the infinite holiness. Amen!!!