Tears of Joy (11th Sunday in OT)

The blog has been dormant for a while. It seems to happen every year after Holy Week. I have been thinking about writing back each and every week since Easter, but I have not done it until now. My apologies, and I sincerely hope that we keep it moving regularly from now on.

We resume the gospel with our comments about a text that may be one of the most intense stories we will ever hear at Mass. This woman with a terrible reputation anoints Jesus, and Simon, the Pharisee, has a strong opinion about it. She is called traditionally the “Sinful Woman.” Why not the “Forgiven Woman”? or, even better, the “Anointing Woman”?

What caught my attention in reading this scene, one that we have all read so many times, is that the woman is crying from the beginning of the scene. She is later forgiven by Jesus, but she cries well before that. I wonder, what kind of tears is she shedding? I don’t think she is sad. Rather, she cries out of deeply felt joy. She has heard about Jesus, she has heard him preaching, teaching about forgiveness, and about every day being a new day…and she cries because she already knows she has been forgiven. She has been given the possibility of a new beginning. She is happy, filled with joy-unlike the artistic renditions of this scene which have her looking terribly sad.

In intentional contrast with the forgiven woman, we have the judging Pharisee whose name, of all possible names, is Simon. He thinks highly of himself, from on that high position he feels he has the moral authority to judge the woman and even Jesus. Jesus comes to tell him that when we judge, when we feel we are without reproach, then we do not experience God’s forgiveness, and without that experience, we cannot love. When Jesus asks Simon, do you see this woman? No, Simon did not see her.

The more we have been forgiven, the more we have experienced God’s love, and the more we can then love others. The woman understands and begins to experience the unconditional love of God, a love that now she can convey to others-a love that makes her a disciple. Did you see how she washed Jesus’ feet? Does this gesture sound familiar? Isn’t this what Jesus asked his disciples to do in John’s gospel rendering of the Last Supper?

But we already knew the woman was a disciple because (exegetical alert!) the text had told us, in a strange way for our modern ears, that “she stood behind him at his feet weeping.” The one who is behind–follows. The one who follows is a disciple. The woman anoints Jesus but also washes his feet, as we have seen. At the end of the gospel we read this Sunday, Luke marks a new stage by telling us that Jesus begins to journey with the Twelve, and the Women. Only about the women Luke says that they “had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities” and supported his ministry. Nothing about the men. And yes, you could think there was nothing to heal in the men. You would be wrong.

Blog Pic, the Forgiven Woman