Forgiven Much?Fr. Barnabas Powell
Look up songs about “love” and you’ll discover so many you won’t be able to count them all. Just as an example, the #1 Love Song of “all time” on Billboard magazine is “Endless Love” by Lionel Richie and Diana Ross.
This obsession with love is understandable since it is a basic desire of all people to be loved and cherished. We all long for love.
But what if our definition of love is flawed? What if it is weak and this weakness means that our idea of love is poisoned with a fatal flaw? What if this wrong definition of love is allowed to become the popular definition and then the horrible disappointment at the failing of what we thought was “love” overwhelms us? Truth is, I think that is exactly our situation today. Love has been poisoned, not by evil or by hate. No, love has been poisoned by being defined too small!
Love gets confused with nostalgia, romance, desire, or even lust. Love gets reduced to mere attraction, and then, when the attraction fails “well, I fell out of love.” Speaking of “falling” how in heaven’s name did something as cosmically beautiful as love get associated with being clumsy?
In today’s Gospel Lesson, our Lord gives us a picture of authentic love, and it comes from an unlikely place. This display of love comes from a woman with a bad reputation, a woman that “polite” company would avoid. You know the story well. It’s found in Luke 7:36-50. The Lord has been invited to dinner at a prominent Pharisee’s home. While there, the lady mentioned arrives and begins to pour some expensive oil on His feet and she wet His feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair. She even kissed His feet. Of course this display got the tongues wagging in the house and the host of the dinner thought to himself “if this man were really a prophet, he’d know what kind of woman this was.”
This idea didn’t escape the Lord’s notice and He told the owner of the house that this woman was acting out of love!
Maybe some background would be helpful here. You see, in a wealthy household, there were many servants, and the most junior servant had the worst jobs to do in the house. The absolute worst job, the job with the least status of all the household chores, was the care of the feet of guests when they arrived at the house. No paved roads and lots of dust meant that sandled feet were usually pretty dirty when people arrived. The slave at the bottom of the pecking order got the job of cleaning feet!
But the Pharisee didn’t offer this common courtesy to Christ. And that wasn’t accidental. It was an attempt to show superiority and arrogance. As an aside, most passive aggressive communication does the same thing.
So this woman, hearing the Lord was in this house, takes on the role of the least slave and ministers to the Lord. The Lord explains why she feels compelled to do this: “Do you see this woman? I entered your house, you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Luke 7:44-46
What is love? Love is the unvarnished truth of my need for God and the unbelievable reality that He has responded to my honest evaluation of my need for Him by giving Himself to me! I have much to be forgiven. The truth is we all do. But when our pride and arrogance blinds us and our energy is poured into justifying ourselves by saying “I’m not as bad as that person” we think we have “little” to be forgiven. So, we love little.
But embracing the truth of my great need for God and the Good News that He always responds with “yes” every time I ask for forgiveness, liberates me to love with an authentic love that demands the response of adoration and worship.
Does your love for God, your gratitude to God drive your priorities? Will you find yourself unable to keep silent today about your gratitude and love for God in all He has given you? Is your love for God what motivates you to even love your enemies? Do you know what love is? Love is action. Love is freedom. Love is peace and joy. God is love.
Today, how will you express your love for God in your life? Begin by abandoning the delusion that you don’t have much to ask forgiveness for. Then act in faith to know God is eager to forgive you everything and keep uniting you to Himself forever. He gives freely expecting nothing in return, and that graciousness, that selfless love, draws out of my heart what is best about me: my capacity to show my gratitude for such Amazing Grace!