See This Woman?Fr. Barnabas Powell
OK, I confess, I do get amused mostly, but sometimes it’s annoying to see the shallow political ideologies of the day insist Jesus is “on our side.” This is especially comical when I see violently anti-religious political ideologues insist we Christians aren’t following Jesus like we should. How would they know? The crushing ignorance among the elite about the Faith is significant!
But it is also amazing to see political ideologies that have become “pseudo-religious” cults across the spectrum of political beliefs attempt to co-opt Jesus and highlight this or that quote from Jesus as “proof” “our side” is good!
Today’s Gospel lesson gives us an opportunity to discover that the Lord’s love for those who are marginalized and His resounding rebuke of those who claim to be super pious is an opportunity for us to smash the delusionary shallow thinking of our modern politicized society.
Look at our lesson today in Luke 7:36-50:
At that time, one of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house, and took his place at table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “What is it, Teacher?” “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he forgave them both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, to whom he forgave more.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “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.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
You simply cannot read the Gospels and not notice that Jesus has a love and compassion for those whom society has sent to the shadows. He eats and drinks with “sinners” and “tax collectors” and even speaks with and ministers to women in a society that relegated women to “property” in all too many cases. And you cannot ignore that Jesus reserves His strongest rebukes for the “religious leaders” who were supposed to be the champions of the poor and forgotten. This isn’t a disputable reality.
But, if this is so obvious, why so much controversy?
Because we settle for shallow understandings and we respond based on immature emotions rather than sober maturity.
The Truth is Jesus has always and will always focus on how we treat the poor and marginalized around us. And the truth is Jesus always tells all of us “Go, and sin no more.” He didn’t love the poor because they were poor or marginalized. He loved them, as He loves all people; because they bear His image as persons. And He confronts all of us to embrace repentance as the way of salvation – rich and poor alike!
This is what is so valuable in this lesson today. Jesus is at the home of a religious leader and a marginalized woman comes in and bathes the Lord’s feet with her tears. The shallow understanding would say the Pharisee is the “bad” guy and the woman of ill repute is the “good” guy in the story. As usual, that’s too small! Because Simon, the Pharisee is confronted in a loving way with his need for repentance, and the woman has already begun mending her life THROUGH repentance. Both characters are in need of repentance, and it is the willingness to repent that makes the difference.
Today, our busy society seems gripped by shallow thinking and actions. We Orthjodox are called to a higher place, a place of true spiritual insight and humility. We cannot keep allowing the shallow narratives of the day to drown our children in a sea of perpetual immaturity. We MUST be Orthodox on purpose!
P.S. Dear Lord Jesus, You leave me no option in Your wisdom to embrace a lifestyle of repentance. You command me to “see” those whom society has marginalized and You insist I show compassion. And You do this because of my deep need for humility and love for others. And You insist I repent and call all others to repentance as well. Please help me escape the shallow immaturity of my society and see clearly so that I can share Your Light with all around me. Amen