Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Bibelstelle: Lk 7:36-8:3
Ort: St Vincent de Paul Datum: 16 Juni 2013
“Her many things have been forgiven, because she has shown great love”.
This is one of the most well-known parts in Luke’s Gospel. These words of Jesus, spoken to us today are liberating and full of forgiveness. Imagine the dialogue between Jesus and the woman, under the watchful eyes of some Pharisees and other honourable members of society. Jesus introduces a completely new perspective with regard to the woman, who was treated as an outcast, a sinner by her contemporaries because of her lifestyle.
The most important precondition for forgiveness is not remorse and repentance but love. That means: To experience forgiveness does not require us to reflect on our imperfection. What is needed, as Jesus shows, is an attitude of compassion and understanding.
Life is messy sometimes, we fail sometimes to be that kind of person we would like to be. But this must not discourage us. We are allowed to move on, we get the opportunity to start again. This is the message of today’s Gospel.
When we experience failure, this is no reason to be doubtful about God’s mercy or to give up our relationship with him.
‘I do not deny my guilt, but Your grace and mercy is much greater than the sin’, is a famous Choral in Bach’s St Matthew Passion.
The woman in today’s Gospel, whose name is not reported, might have felt similarly.
She put all her trust in Jesus, in his compassion and forgiveness. Her hope in him and in his forgiving love is so strong that she endures all the criticism of Jesus’ hosts, who did not hold back their fierce criticism. How courageous of her to walk right into the house of a Pharisee. This was surely a very difficult move to make. Yet, she is determined to approach Jesus, even though only from behind. Then, we witness a powerful sign. She washes Jesus feed. Jesus himself will later do the same to his own disciples. By the washing of the feet, the woman shows her deep love for Jesus. She gives an example of generous service and self-forgetting love.
To wash Jesus’ feet, she does not use a jar of water. She uses her own tears. In her tears, we see her grieve about her shortcomings, and perhaps also her grief about the rejection she experienced from her community. The others can see her only as a sinner, as a person who has failed. They are blind to see that even now and even more so, she is a person who needs love and who deserves love.
She dares to do Jesus the greatest honour: She wipes his feet with her own hair and anointed them with ointment. She recognizes Jesus as the Christ, who has the authority to forgive sins.
Jesus accepts her gesture, in spite of the criticism of his hosts. He is deeply moved by this anonymous woman. Not for a single moment does he doubt the seriousness of her motivation.
He forgives her all her sins immediately. He does not need any more words here. We she Jesus’ sovereignty here, he is cautious of his authority and uses it without fear, although he knew how provocative his behaviour was for the religious authorities of his time.
I invite you to reflect on the scene we heard in today’s Gospel. Where did we not pay attention to small signs of repentance? Tears, a hug, a look asking for forgiveness? Do we really believe that God loves to forgive us? That he is not a bookkeeper, weighing plus against minus? Jesus love and compassion for the woman in the Gospel encourages us to take a broader perspective. Our loved ones in the family, our friends, and our colleagues can make mistakes. But this should not stop us from seeing them as persons who need and who deserve our love.