1 Corinthians 15:1-11
USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke.
A certain Pharisee invited Jesus to dine with him,
and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table.
Now there was a sinful woman in the city
who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee.
Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment,
she stood behind him at his feet weeping
and began to bathe his feet with her tears.
Then she wiped them with her hair,
kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself,
“If this man were a prophet,
he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him,
that she is a sinner.”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“Simon, I have something to say to you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
“Two people were in debt to a certain creditor;
one owed five hundred days’ wages and the other owed fifty.
Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both.
Which of them will love him more?”
Simon said in reply,
“The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.”
He said to him, “You have judged rightly.”
Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon,
“Do you see this woman?
When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet,
but she has bathed them with her tears
and wiped them with her hair.
You did not give me a kiss,
but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered.
You did not anoint my head with oil,
but she anointed my feet with ointment.
So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven;
hence, she has shown great love.
But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”
He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The others at table said to themselves,
“Who is this who even forgives sins?”
But he said to the woman,
“Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Good News Reflection: Honesty about our vulnerability to sin
In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus says, “The one who’s forgiven little, loves little.” In other words, those who don’t ask for forgiveness very often have little genuine love for others.
We’re all blind, to some degree, to the sins we commit. We don’t want to see them. We’re afraid that admitting our sins will prove that we don’t deserve to be loved or that God will punish us by making us miserable. So, without thinking about it (for that would open us to the truth), we focus on other people’s sins. We rationalize away our own sinfulness. We defend our actions. We justify ourselves, forgetting that Jesus already justified us on the cross.
We’re controlled by the unconscious idea: “If I don’t know what my sins are, then God doesn’t either.” We’re still the little kid who stole candy from Daddy’s room just before dinner and ate it in a dark closet to avoid getting caught, little realizing that the wrappers dropped on the floor will expose our secret. Well guess what, our all-knowing heavenly Daddy is not interested in punishing us.
A few days ago, I described sin as “missing the mark,” i.e., failing to love wholeheartedly. As followers of Christ, we have been redeemed from the power of sin. We have been reborn as “saints” and are no longer “sinners.” Yet we do sin every day, because we do not yet love God and everyone else fully. Our daily journey toward heaven involves improving our aim so that we hit the bulls-eye of the target more frequently. This is life as an earthly saint.
God appreciates our desire to grow in holiness. Consider which person in today’s scripture enjoyed the presence of Jesus more: Simon the Pharisee or the sinful woman? When we’re like Simon, caught in the self-deception of believing that we’re better than people whose sins are plainly visible, we’re really trying to protect ourselves from getting punished. This self-focus interferes with our aim: We are condemning others as inferior, we are not loving them.
When we’re like the sinful woman, honest with ourselves about missing the mark, we discover a greater love: We discover the depth to which God cares about us. We appreciate what Christ did for us on the cross. We enjoy his presence oh, so much more!
Mass has a built-in opportunity to seek forgiveness for the times we’ve missed the mark, which enables us to receive the love that’s available to us in the Word and in the Eucharist. Early in the liturgy is the Penitential Rite; the priest gives us absolution from any venial* sins that we can bring to mind. However, this happens too quickly for a good examination of conscience on the spot. We need to prepare for it by getting honest with ourselves before Mass.
And when we can’t think of any new sins, we can tell God: “Forgive me for being blind — and for wanting to be blind — to my sins.” It’s a good start for bathing the tired feet of Jesus with our tears.
(*Venial means “minor”; a venial sin has broken our unity with God but has not destroyed our entire relationship with God. A “mortal” sin is a complete turning away from God while fully understanding what we are doing; this requires the full benefits of the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the restoration of our souls.)
Praised be You, Lord, because Your love forgives a whole past in a moment. Teach me how to forgive, as You have forgiven me. Amen.
© 2018 by Terry A. Modica