A Worthless Person by Human Standards
One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him. Jesus accepted and went to his home that evening. A woman from the town, who had lived a very sinful life, learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she went there with a jar of perfume.
After entering the house by force, she went straight to Jesus. As she knelt before Him weeping, her tears fell on His feet. She gently wiped His feet with her hair, kissed them repeatedly and then poured her perfume on them. When the Pharisee saw this, he thought, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who it is that is touching him and what kind of woman she is”. Then Jesus said to him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” He responded, “Tell me teacher”.
A Lesson on Love and Mercy from the Messiah
“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred Denarii, (about $10000 US Dollars) and the other, fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
Then He turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7, 36-50)
Water, Kiss and Oil
In Israel at that time, there were three traditional greetings which were extended to every guest to show that they were welcome in your home. The first was to offer them water, to wash the dusty clay from their face, hands and feet. The second was to give them a kiss. The third was offer them oil to be placed on their head. The oil used by the Jews was either sweet oil or olive oil and it gave off a pleasant smell and made their hair more smooth and elegant. For the Pharisee to have not offered Jesus these customary gestures would be a direct insult of Jesus and a sign of the disrespectful nature of the Pharisee.
The Two People
This story shows how God responded to both persons in this story. He should have been angry with the Pharisee for insulting Him, yet He stayed and was willing to have dinner with Him. Maybe He understood that He was a symbol of conflict to a Jewish Pharisee. It is clear that the Pharisee was inviting Jesus to his house to question Him further. Jesus had His reasons to go to this Pharisee’s home.
The story also shows how God’s respond to the sinful woman. He did not get up and distance Himself from her when she approached Him, as the Pharisee expected Him to do. By not doing so, Jesus was scandalised and His credibility and authority was damaged in the minds of the Pharisee and his guests. But Jesus allowed her to show her love, and then He consoled her, told her that she sins were forgiven, her faith had saved her and that she should go in peace. The feeling of peace in this woman’s heart that evening must have been truly amazing.
God’s Love and Mercy is ALWAYS available
This parable teaches us that God’s love and mercy are always available to those who seek His mercy with a sincere, humble and loving heart, no matter what sins they have committed. God is always delighted to welcome us back and forgive even those who have offended Him greatly. But sometimes we can be afraid to approach God to ask Him for forgiveness. We can find it difficult to believe that God could forgive our sins. Even if our sins are so shameful that we feel like we couldn’t look Jesus in the face, but only cower before Him, crying on His feet, we must never believe that Jesus will not forgive us or that our act of trust in His mercy and goodness will be met by an angry and unforgiving God. We must believe that we will be treated like the woman in the Pharisees home.
Throughout the Diary of St. Faustina, Jesus is constantly telling St. Faustina to tell people to trust in His Mercy, Goodness and Love. He teaches her that no-one’s sins are a match for His mercy. But He knows that we will doubt so He constantly told St. Faustina to tell us to place all their trust in Him. This biblical story teaches us a lesson for our relationship with God, but it also applies to our human relationships.
Humans Respond to Love
In our human relationships, these truths also apply. A small amount of love and affection can bring people together, people who have been the greatest enemies for years. This parable wants to help us understand and believe that wherever there are damaged relationships, it can be reconciled, when one side is willing to show love, inspired by the beauty of God’s love, and that can be all that is necessary for love to be reciprocated by the other party.
As We Forgive Those
All reconciliation can be achieved through love. This is one of the main lessons this parable teaches us. It is the love within us that motivates us towards reconciliation with God and with those who have offended us. As Catholics, God expects us to make the effort to make peace with our enemies or to ask for forgiveness when necessary. He knows it is difficult, but it is an important aspect of our Catholic faith.
In the first prayer Jesus gave us, He made it a condition to be reconciled with Him, that we must “forgive those who trespass against us”. We must try to be reconciled with those who have offended us. Sometimes this is not possible, or maybe the other party might reject us, but if that happens, we can then forgive them in our hearts and pray from them.
To Love and to be Loved
There is no mystery to reconciliation. The spirit within us is always pushing us to be reconciled with those we need to make peace with. Reconciliation is part of the greatest force within us, which is to love. Love is not simply a part of our human makeup. It is a part of our spirit which is why it cannot be explained scientifically.
When we feel the need to be reconciled with God, or our fellow man, it means that we are feeling the need to return to a state of being ‘loving’. Sometimes, there are things that can separate people from one other or make them build walls, but deep within our spirit we all have a longing for peace and reconciliation.
Your Sins are Forgiven, Go in Peace
This parable teaches us that we have a natural hunger for peace and reconciliation that can only be fed by God’s love. It is through this eternal and unquenchable love, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, that the soul encounters God. The confessional is a miraculous place in which the soul encounters the love of God, bestowed on it as an individual. It is a sacred place and a unique moment in the life of a soul. It is a moment in time where a human reconciles itself with the Almighty.
When the sinful woman was kneeling before Jesus crying because of her sins, she was going to confession. She was sorry for what she had done and Jesus knew it. We must remember this when we go to confession. Jesus knows that we are sorry for our sins, and we should imagine Him telling us too, “your faith has saved you, your sins are forgiven, go in peace”.