•Baruch 5: 1-9; Philippians1: 4-6, 8-11; Luke 3: 1-6•
Weekly Scripture Readings: You will need to pull your bible off the shelf and look these readings up as the USCCB website uses a different set of readings for this Sunday.
In preparing my homilies I consult various commentaries and other resources for guidance into the gospel text. Scripture scholars are like all of us. I do so with caution. In reading or hearing gospel texts many of them are conditioned by things they have heard before and/or the sociopolitical environment in which they live. So I consult them with caution and critically.
We see the need for such caution in today’s gospel. Many scholars make two presumptions that I think are unfounded in the text. It is like the presumption so often made that we all are sinners.
The central figure in this text is a woman. The text does not name her. It tells us simply that once Jesus had “entered the house of the Pharisee and reclined at table,” an uninvited guest entered the house. She may have been one of the women who traveled with Jesus. Although no name is given her in the text, most scholars name her Mary Magdalene. I think that is their first presumption.
In the text she is identified as “a sinful woman in the city.” Here is a second presumption
commonly made. Based on that simple sentence they presume this woman is a prostitute. Luke does not say that. He says only that “a sinful woman in the city” entered the house. Using the adjective “sinner” without clarifying what the word means is simply ambiguous and unclear.
It is far more important to note her outreach and ministry to Jesus. It is very touching. She sits or kneels before Jesus and washes his feet with her tears. “Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the perfume.”
The remainder of the text provides Jesus the opportunity to teach his host. It does not matter what she has done, or what she thinks about herself. He speaks a little parable about two people in debt to a creditor. He uses the parable and the behavior of the woman to emphasize his point. It is love, not compliance with the Law, but love that ultimately saves and heals us.
So let’s apply this text to ourselves, and our relationships with other people. The world in which we live is far more complex than we are capable of recognizing and each day we experience a vast array of people and experiences. Our common task is to touch the transcendent mystery at the center of our existence. That Mystery permeates all of reality, including all that we are.
Never forget that every person is a mystery, and every person has a history. We barely know our own inner truth and even less those we know best. Every life story begins with birth and unfolds through the many, many experiences we have and the many people who touch us. It is impossible to know all that has happened to another person.
Never forget that you also are a mystery, with a history. No matter what you think about you, the Gracious Mystery we name God dwells within you. The redeeming, healing presence of God is within you. You are infinitely more than you ever imagined yourself to be.
I have a little hand-caved gargoyle near the door in my residence. I also have a little plaque near the gargoyle. When I was the chaplain of the Grizzly football team, I often shared the words inscribed on that plaque with the Grizzly football team. It says: “all the wonders you seek are within yourself.” In other words, there is nothing to seek outside of your self. It is all within you. It is all inside of you. The same is true of every individual you encounter in your daily life.
The name of the woman in this gospel text, and the nature of her sin are both insignificant. The important thing about her is this. “She loved much,” probably because she was in touch with her own mystery and her own history. The story about this woman is important for all of us because she is us!! “ All the wonders you seek are within yourself.”