• 2 Samuel 12:7-10, 13 • Galatians 2:16, 19-21 • Luke 7:36—8:3 • 11 Ordinary C ‘13 •
Print PDF: Weekly Homily 06.16.2013
Scripture Readings: Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
A dear friend sent me a bouquet of six sunflowers for my birthday. As often happens with bouquets, one of the blossoms was short-lived. On the fourth day, it lost its vitality and drooped while the other five maintained their brilliant yellow for seven days. The survival of the five testified that I had kept the bouquet well watered. Why was that one blossom unable to remain alive? Why did it wither?
In today’s Gospel reading Luke tells of an unnamed woman who entered the house of Simon the Pharisee where Jesus was an invited guest. She bathed his feet, dried them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with ointment.
The host objected, stating, “this women is a sinner.” We cannot ignore Simon’s claim. But we can ask “why he made that harsh accusation? Why in later centuries did some of our ancestors in faith reach the unfounded conclusion that “the woman” was a prostitute? So often we judge others who simply need our love.
The truth is that among Jews of that time many occupations were considered “unclean.” Anyone who failed to observe the Jewish dietary laws, mingled with lepers or the sick, touched a dead body, or ate with outcasts were considered “unclean” or “sinners.” Jesus did many of these things. Perhaps this unnamed woman did also.
Our information about “the woman washing his feet” is limited. It is reasonable to assume she heard good things about Jesus. She seemed confident he would accept and welcome her without judgment. She trusted he would love her. By coming into Simon’s house with her isolation and loneliness, typical of any who are socially outcast for any reason, she made herself vulnerable to judgment and sarcasm. She was willing to risk rejection and dismissal.
The wilted sunflower in my residence prompted me to probe the experience of this woman on a deeper level. That wilted blossom helped me hear this text from a different perspective. Of the six blossoms in the bouquet, five remained full of life. That single blossom had access to the same abundant life-sustaining water needed to survive, but for some reason was unable to absorb the water. This weakened that blossom and it wilted.
This women and we are like the sunflowers. We are human beings, imperfect and fragile, still in the process of becoming human. We are able to accept who we are and all that has brought us to this place and time when we know we are accepted and loved by others. The bottom line for all of us is the same. We yearn for the sort of acceptance that tells us we are loved and loveable.
In response to the bitter judgment of the Pharisee, Jesus told a story about two people in debt.
The obvious point is forgiveness, thus implying “sin.” We cannot ignore this story but I urge you to be cautious. Avoid falling into the theological quicksand that traps so many.
Living a Christian life is not about avoiding sin or being forgiven. Living a Christian life is about imitating Christ, becoming like Christ, acting and loving like Christ. It is about becoming fully human.
Love is a messy, tricky business. . We all need love to survive. When we do not feel loved we wilt. This “sinful woman” trusted Jesus would love her. He did! WOW! She found in him a welcoming, comforting presence. “Your faith has saved you.” She began to love, simply, gently and effectively.
She is all of us who are the baptized. We are called in baptism to live in such a way that it is “no longer I, but Christ who lives in me.” His response, “your faith has saved you,” is an invitation. Allow yourself to be loved. Risk loving others. In the process you will become fully alive and fully human. You will begin to understand your own deepest truth.