Tuesday in the Seventh Week of Ordinary Time

Luke 7:36-50

A Most Beautiful Portrait of Love

Luke is the only “Evangelist,” as the writers of the gospels are often called, to report this account from our Savior’s life.  Jesus is again shown as the forgiving Son of God and Son of Man who is plenteous in mercy, and unwilling to allow social custom to stop him from extending compassion and love to repentant sinners.  We do not know this woman’s name, and this account should not be confused with other gospel reports of another woman (Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus) who anointed his head just before his passion.  What we do know is that this woman was “a sinner,” suggesting sexual immorality.  Of course, men should never forget that this poor woman’s designation (as well as that of millions of women throughout history) is a direct result of their perverse cravings and lusts.

She enters the house with amazing courage given that it belonged to a Pharisee, approaches Jesus from behind (they reclined at a low table so that their legs and feet were behind them), and washes his feet with her tears, dries them with her hair, and kisses and anoints them with an expensive alabaster flask of ointment – one of the most moving displays of love and devotion in all of Scripture.  Simon, his host, says to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”

Jesus, knowing Simon’s thoughts, puts an easy lesson before him: a certain creditor cancelled the debt of two debtors, one who owed him five-hundred (we’ll say, “dollars”) and another who owed him fifty.  Then Jesus asks Simon, “Now which of them will love him more?”  Simon replies with the obvious answer that the one who owed him more would love him more.  Jesus compliments him for his discernment, but then compares him to the woman: Simon did not wash Jesus’ feet when he entered the house (a slight for which Simon could be rightly scolded), or kiss him, or anoint Jesus with oil.  The woman had done all of these acts of devotion, and in the most humble way.  The lesson plainly illustrates the difference between Simon’s arrogance and the woman’s humility, his thoughtlessness and her devotion.

Now please understand that the love for which Jesus commended the woman was not the cause of her forgiveness, but the result of it.  And only a sinful wretch would construe Jesus’ words to mean that he or she should commit sin with impunity that they might “love much” (Romans 6:1-4).  And as for Jesus’ wonderful authority to forgive sins, refer to Mark 2:1-12.

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