36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. 37 And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. 38 She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment.39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.” 40 Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied, “speak.” 41 “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he cancelled the greater debt.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.”44 Then turning towards the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”48 Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:36-50)
Jesus is eating with Simon, and probably Simon was quite looking forward to this: discussing with Jesus about what the law tells us about this or that situation. A theoretical discussion over a nice meal.
But then a woman enters, and not just any woman, but one who is a sinner, a prostitute. She is weeping, either because of her suffering, or tears of joy because she is with the person who can give her a new life. She bathes Jesus’ feet with her tears and dries them with her hair.
Simon is scandalized: if Jesus is truly a prophet he should know that this woman is a prostitute. How can a man who claims to be holy let himself be touched by such a woman. This was how Simon saw the world: what is good and holy should be kept far away from what is sinful and wrong.
Jesus does not enter into a debate but tells a simple story about a big and a small debt that is canceled. And Simon understands that it is obviously the person to whom much has been forgiven who shows more love. And here we come to one of the paradoxes of the gospel. It is those who seem far from God who understand truly who Jesus is, because they experience this great joy of being forgiven. And those who think they are close to God, forgetting the joy of being forgiven, fail to see who he truly is.
Perhaps the most important sentence of the text is when Jesus says to Simon: "Do you see this woman?" For Simon the woman was only a prostitute, more like an object than a human being. Something wrong and shameful that should be kept for away from what is good and holy. He can not see beyond this.
But Jesus sees who she truly is, a person, yes one who made some wrong choices in life but someone who wants to change, who is in need of a new hope. And she sees who Jesus is, that he is the one who can forgive her. Therefore she, and not Simon, shows Jesus the love and respect he deserves.
In the last paragraph, Jesus says these simple but important words to the woman: your sins are forgiven. Those at table do not understand how Jesus dares to say this. But once again he doesn’t start a discussion, what is most important now is this woman and he simply says to her: "your faith has saved you."
Your faith has saved you. Through these words we understand something important. Faith isn’t just knowing a lot about God, for this woman didn’t. Nor is it a perfect life, for the woman was far from perfect. It is the simple trust in what Jesus is capable of. She, through the ointment, shows the world who Jesus is, the Messiah, who heals us though his mercy. But for this we always have to keep open to the possibility that God may be different than we thought. That it is those who seem far from God who can teach us something about him. That Jesus didn’t come to judge. That the only thing that matters is to live the joy of being forgiven.
What do I find unusual in the words and gestures of the characters in this story?
In the text the woman, although being a sinner, understands better who Jesus is than Simon. Do I know a similar situation today?