What the gospel wants to tell us is that Jesus loves the sinner’s humility and repentance, while he detests the pride of the self-righteous.
During this Year of Faith, which is well into its second half, it might have been a good spiritual exercise to take up, on Sundays, gospel passages in which faith is mentioned and rewarded. Many of the cures performed by Jesus were the result of an act of faith on the part of the sick persons. On the other hand, lack of faith “paralyzed” the Lord’s hands and heart, and prevented him from working miracles-as it happened in Nazareth at the start of his public ministry (Mt. 13:58). The woman in today’s gospel professed her faith in Jesus, not in words but with her actions; and Jesus rewarded her for that.
The Gospel of St. Luke is called by different names. Among others, the “Gospel of Mercy,” if only for the three parables found in chapter 15 about the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Prodigal Son. It is also called the “Gospel of Women,” because of the many passages dealing with Jesus’ respect and concern for women including the last two verses of today’s gospel about the women-disciples, and last Sunday’s gospel about tbe widow of Nain.
Thus, we can say that today’s passage is like a showcase of Luke’s gospel, as it combines both themes: Jesus’ mercy and his defense of the sinful woman against the accusing mutterings of Simon, the self-righteous Pharisee. A good number of gospel passages find fulfillment in this story. The passage about the Pharisee and the tax collector praying in the temple (Lk. 18: 10ft) and that of the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10:30ft) bear a striking similarity to today’s gospel. They all express Jesus’ predilection for the little ones, in fulfillment of the gospel’s oft-repeated paradox: “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk. 14:11).
By accepting the invitation of a Pharisee to have dinner with him in his house, Jesus was displaying great courage and also taking a great risk. The Pharisees were not precisely his best friends. On the contrary, they were always harassing him and scrutinizing his every word and action in order to have something to accuse him of. Simon was probably delighted when Jesus accepted his invitation, so he and his fellow-Pharisees could observe him closely. And sure enough, he soon began to vent his bias against Jesus: “If this man were a prophet … ” Even though Simon said that “to himself,” Jesus was able to read his mind-a proof that he indeed was a prophet, endowed with divine knowledge.
Jesus did not care much about etiquette, when truth and justice were at stake. He masterfully turned the tables on the self-righteous Pharisee and lectured him, right there in his own house, about his “sins of omission,” all the practical demands of hospitality which he had failed to accord Jesus– while extolling the gestures of affection accorded him by the “sinful” woman. Simon learned the hard way Jesus’ teaching: “Do not judge, that you may not be judged. Do not condemn, that you may not be condemned … s s (Luke 6:37).
Jesus explains the behavior of the sinful woman with the parable of the two debtors. Her acts of kindness and affection toward Jesus were an expression of gratitude, knowing that her sins, her many sins, had been forgiven or were about to be forgiven. She could sense forgiveness in Jesus’ welcoming attitude-just as she could sense rejection in Simon’s judgmental attitude.
We must not conclude from today’s gospel that Jesus loves sinners more than he does the just. Of course not. What the gospel wants to tell us is that Jesus loves the sinner’s humility and repentance, while he detests the pride of the self-righteous. That is a constant found in all four gospels: “1have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners” (Lk. 5:32).
as published in the Parish Bulletin, June 16, 2013