One of the most beautiful stories in the gospel was proclaimed in today’s Mass. Jesus is eating dinner in the home of Simon, a Pharisee, and an unnamed woman enters the gathering. She is only identified as being sinful. Those eating were actually reclined around the table, their feet facing away from the table, as this woman comes to Jesus with a jar of oil in her hands. She bends down and bathes the feet of Jesus with her tears and wipes them dry with her hair. Then she anoints them. Beautiful. Physical. Sensual.
Simon was not liking this at all and was thinking very judgmental thoughts about Jesus. Why wound he want to allow this sinful woman to do such provocative gestures? Didn’t He know what a horrible person she was? She was untouchable, one of the “les miserables,” the miserables of Victor Hugo’s great novel/play. But Jesus does something that surely stunned Simon, and the others: He forgave her and sent her away from the meal transformed by love. Shocking!! Jesus and women were a powerful combination, allowing God to be experienced in the most unlikely people we encounter.
The depth of Christ’s mercy toward this unnamed woman flowed from the depth of her love of Him. Simon, and the others, were isolated from experiences of transformation because their hearts were small, like the Grinch before the people of Whoville loved him out of isolation. How isolating we can be in our worlds, when we shut people out who are different, who don’t fit in, who have reputations. Simon was oh so safe in his world, with his heart hardened to new life and mercy. She left his home free; he remained a prisoner of his own judgements.
The unnamed woman can have a name, any name, YOUR name. In prayer, shower Jesus with your own tears, of past regrets, painful sins, fears and failed dreams. The joy that you will experience in this prayerful encounter with Jesus will change your life. Trust.
Peace. Fr. Frank.