Be sure, this is not a season of monotony, nor a season of drudgery. Instead, this long period of ordinary time is a period where we, the faithful, have the opportunity to quietly endure in our faith with Christ who has so lovingly endured the whole history of human failure in sin. So, at the outset of the summer, I pray that we may each set ourselves about quietly repairing our relationships with Christ. Where sin has chipped away at that relationship, or built a barrier between our hearts and the Sacred Heart, I pray that distance will erased through contrition and reception of the sacraments.
Today's readings can be found here.
The Gospel reading today relays a story from the Gospel of Saint Luke that is familiar to many: Jesus dines with a Pharasee, where a sinful woman washes His feet with her tears, wipes them with her hair, and annoints them with perfumed oil. When questioned by the Pharasee as to why Christ would allow such a sinner to perform these acts for Him, Jesus gives us the parable of the two debtors that have been forgiven their debts. Here is the passage from Saint Luke in full:
A Pharisee invited Jesus to dine with him,(Lk 7, 36 - 8, 3 NAB)
and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table.
Now there was a sinful woman in the city
who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee.
Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment,
she stood behind him at his feet weeping
and began to bathe his feet with her tears.
Then she wiped them with her hair,
kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself,
“If this man were a prophet,
he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him,
that she is a sinner.”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“Simon, I have something to say to you.”
“Tell me, teacher, ” he said.
“Two people were in debt to a certain creditor;
one owed five hundred days’ wages and the other owed fifty.
Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both.
Which of them will love him more?”
Simon said in reply,
“The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.”
He said to him, “You have judged rightly.”
Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon,
“Do you see this woman?
When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet,
but she has bathed them with her tears
and wiped them with her hair.
You did not give me a kiss,
but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered.
You did not anoint my head with oil,
but she anointed my feet with ointment.
So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven
because she has shown great love.
But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”
He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The others at table said to themselves,
“Who is this who even forgives sins?”
But he said to the woman,
“Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Afterward he journeyed from one town and village to another,
preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.
Accompanying him were the Twelve
and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities,
Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,
Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza,
Susanna, and many others who provided for them
out of their resources.
There are many messages that can be unpacked from this passage from Saint Luke's Gospel, but I want to reflect on the nature of the woman and how that nature might reflect the Church today. First, the woman is a sinner, and we can surmise that her sins are notorious because of the place in salvation history that she has attained as the "sinful woman." Second, we know that the woman sought out Christ and expressed by her emotion and her actions her deep contrition for her sins. She did not ask Jesus' forgiveness in her heart and then go about her day. Instead, she took the extraordinary step of coming to Christ, washing His feet with her tears, poured out with a sincere emotion of contrition, and then annointing Christ's feet. It could be said that the sinful woman is lavishing on Christ her love and her spirit of contrition.
We Church, the body of Christ on earth, are sinful too. Though we try to attain holiness for the glory of God, we are all sinners that in some way fail. Some have failings that are notorious, most of us do not reach notoriety with our sin, but we still at some point or another commit sins that build a wall between ourselves and our Savior. But, how do we respond? Do we merely ask for Christ's forgiveness in our hearts and, then, go about our lives? Or, do we stop and seek out Christ to express our contrition?
And, when we do confess our sins do we lavish on our Lord our emotion of sorrow and the gifts of ourselves given in thanksgiving for His love? That is what the woman really did in the passage from Saint Luke's Gospel, she poured out her very self for Christ. Reserving nothing, she comes pitiful to Christ and can only express herself by her tears. But, Christ knows her heart and He forgives her of her sin.
I once heard a Carthusian priest being interviewed, and the question posed to him was essentially this: "Why do you waste your life praying to God in solitude? Isn't there so much more good you could be doing outside of the cloister?" The answer moved me in a profound way. The Carthusian responded with this story from Saint Luke and said: just as the sinful woman pours herself out to Christ, we pour out our lives for Christ. Critics might well have said of the woman: "why waste your money on ointment for the feet of Jesus when you could have given that money to the poor?" But, the woman gave all she had in her contrite spirit to our Lord. And, we give all we have, our very lives, in our contrite spirit to the Lord.
Praise the Lord! Give thanks for all the blessings that we are given and even in our hardships, thank the Lord for the opportunity to persevere for His glory. I pray that all the faithful will have a spirit of complete love for our Lord so that we will each be drawn to pour ourselves out for the Lord in a spirit of true contrition.