Do you see this woman?

That’s what Jesus asks Simon, the Pharisee, in the Gospel today and Simon doesn’t answer the question. If he did, he would probably say yes, but he would be wrong. He thinks he can see this woman, but he only sees a woman with a bad name, and he thinks Jesus should know what sort of woman this is and avoid being touched by her. He isn’t seeing the woman Jesus sees – not a type of woman but this woman, at this moment in her life.

This woman is making extravagant gestures of love – tears, kisses and the breaking open of a treasured jar of ointment which she pours over the feet of Jesus. Jesus, who sees into her heart as clearly as he sees into Simon’s, knows that her behaviour is not a sign of her sinful way of life but the overflowing of love that can only come from her experience of God’s unbounded forgiveness. Those who criticise the waste don’t understand the extravagance of love responding to forgiveness. Jesus tells the story of the two debtors to try to open the mind of Simon, and the minds of the others who are looking on, to the forgiveness of God, so that they too may be given the gift of extravagant love.

This story is Good News for us, whether we identify with the woman or with Simon, or with the lender or the debtors, because it can open our minds, if we let it, to the unlimited power of God’s forgiveness. Many things can get in the way of our receiving God’s forgiveness and responding in love. Sometimes we are blind to our sinfulness – we think we are doing OK, so we feel no need of forgiveness. Sometimes we are too ashamed to ask for the forgiveness we need or too frightened of the changes that will happen if we let God’s love loose in our lives. Sometimes we don’t really believe, deep down, that we are forgiven. Sometimes we are too embarrassed to show our gratitude and love. God’s forgiving love is always there for us, if only we can stop resisting.

Fr Chris.

 

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