Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Bolton

Stay with us, Lord, on our journey

Cycle C

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

 Luke 7.36-8.3.

“Who is this man that he even forgives sins?”

Today’s Gospel reading offers us a particularly rich opportunity to gain some insight into the merciful mind and heart of Jesus. In some ways it is a story of contrasts: Simon, the strict religious Pharisee, compared with the woman “who had a bad name in town”; Simon’s lack of the normal courtesies to be shown to a guest, compared with the extravagant display of emotion shown by the woman; the cold, judgmental and dismissive attitude of Simon, compared with the supportive and gracious acceptance demonstrated by Jesus.

Simon, a Pharisee, would have nothing to do with sinners; this woman’s very presence is a pollution of his house. He is scandalised that Jesus could allow her to approach him, even to touch him. Surely, he reasons, if Jesus were a prophet he should know that he would incur ritual uncleanness through contact with this woman. He sees only the sinfulness; for him she is simply unclean and beyond forgiveness.

In contrast Jesus sees great love in the one who is forgiven; he looks for the human potential that can be achieved through love and forgiveness. He knows that forgiveness does not simply cancel a debt – or ‘wipe the slate clean’ – but brings new life. Forgiveness releases her from her past, heals that past, and brings her the freedom to be capable of truly loving anew. It was because she had been forgiven, says Jesus, that she was able to show such great love.

That liberating and re-creating, compassionate and merciful, welcoming and forgiving love shown by Jesus towards a sinner, is the very same love that God has for us all.