June 12, 2016
Luke 7:36 – 8::3
One of the Pharisees invited him to a meal. When he arrived at the Pharisee’s house and took his place at table, suddenly a woman came in, who had a bad name in the town. She had heard he was dining with the Pharisee and had brought with her an alabaster jar of ointment. She waited behind him at his feet, weeping, and her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them away with her hair; then she covered his feet with kisses 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 this woman is and what sort of person it is who is touching him and what a bad name she has. Then Jesus took him up and said, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ He replied, ‘Say on, Master.’ ‘There was once a creditor who had two men in his debt; one owed him five hundred denarii, the other fifty. They were unable to pay, so he let them both off. Which of them will love him more?’ Simon answered, ‘The one who was let off more, I suppose. Jesus said, ‘You are right.’ Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, ‘You see this woman? I came into your house, and you poured no water over my feet, but she has poured out her tears over my feet and wiped them away with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but she has been covering my feet with kisses ever since I came in. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. For this reason I tell you that her sins, many as they are, have been forgiven her, because she has shown such great love. It is someone who is forgiven little who shows little love.’ Then he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ Those who were with him at table began to say to themselves, ‘Who is this man, that even forgives sins?’ But he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’
Now it happened that after this he made his way through towns and villages preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. With him went the Twelve, as well as certain women who had been cured of evil spirits and ailments: Mary surnamed the Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their own resources.
A couple of weeks ago, if you can recall, then Deacon Nicolas Ramirez, now Father Nicolas Ramirez, told us about this great gift that had no cost – the gift of the Most Precious Body and Blood – something that Amanii and Gianna are going to be celebrating for the first time today. So, we look forward to you joining us at the Table of the Lord.
Then, last Sunday, Father John said something about mercy that struck me very strongly. He said the mercy isn’t something that we do. Rather, mercy is something that we are.
And this week, we get a reminder that God’s mercy is for everyone – not just a few but everyone. And yet the world can confuse us to the point that we do not take advantage of this great gift of God’s mercy. If you paid attention in that first reading, you learned that in 2 Samuel, even though God gives us everything, we can still mess it up.
Now we hear Nathan reading David the riot act, but prior to that, there is a bit of a word problem that Nathan shares with David, and back in school, I always hated word problems because I always thought they were trying to trick me into doing something. Had David had my healthy suspicion at the time, he would have been a little more aware that Nathan’s story probably wasn’t going to end up well for him.
So, Nathan tells this story about these two neighbors – one of them a very rich man with a lot of holdings and large herds and everything else, and his neighbor is a poor man with a single ewe lamb. Now this man loved this little ewe lamb so much that he would feed it by hand, he would feed it from his table as he sat to eat. And whenever he would sit down, the little ewe lamb would jump into his lap and take a nap. And then at night, whenever he would to bed, the little ewe would jump up in the bed, and sleep in the bed with him. He loved this lamb more than he loved his life.
When the rich man’s friend came for a visit, instead of taking a lamb from his large herds, he decides to take the poor man’s ewe lamb, and slaughter it for the meal that he celebrated with his friends. And Nathan asked David, “What would you do in this case?” And, of course, David is incensed because he doesn’t realize he is talking about David. And so, he says, “Who is this man that I may have him struck down?” And Nathan says, “That man is you.”
By the way, we have a very wonderful Men’s ministry here that we celebrate on Friday mornings. Ladies, if you want to see a change in your husbands, get them into That Man Is You.
So, Nathan then says, “Well, David, the Lord anointed you and made you the King of Israel. He saved you from Saul. He gave you everything that you possess, and what have you done? You’ve rejected God by the evil that you have done to Uriah.” David didn’t even kill him by his own sword, but he had him killed by putting him in the front lines in a battle with the Ammonites and he was killed. And David had that done simply to cover up his sin of adultery with Uriah’s wife. David recognizes his sin and begs God for forgiveness.
Ladies, the thing that you need to remember above everything is that David made the worst possible sins, and yet God forgave him everything. He wiped the slate clean. [Speaking to the First Communicants] Just like when you went to First Reconciliation recently, you were part of God’s great love – his mercy of forgiveness. So, remember, no matter what ever happens in the future, don’t ever be afraid to talk to God, and to tell Him what you’ve done. He’s always going to forgive you if you’re sorry.
And yet, sadly, even with that great love, many of us today can’t understand the mercy that God had for us. We try to fit God into a box because our minds can’t understand what God is. We have a finite way of thinking – a beginning and an end, a top and bottom, and their sides. But God doesn’t fit into a box. He is much greater than anything that you can imagine. Even St Anselm said, “God is greater than anything else that can ne thought. That which nothing greater can be thought.”
So, if we’re thinking that we can limit God, then if we follow the rules, we should be okay. But, if we sin, and I guess since we’re limiting God, we’re going to be able to tell Him which sins he can and cannot forgive, then we would be condemned.
And so, I present to you, Luke’s version today of the anointing of Jesus’ feet as He reclines at table. There’s a very similar story in the other three Gospels. Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9 have a story that is very similar, and their stories are almost identical. They talk about a woman, unnamed, who breaks a jar of expensive perfume, and anoints the head of Jesus, at a dinner given by a man named Simon the Leper. In John 12:1-8, it’s the same dinner but it appears it is being hosted by Lazarus, Jesus’ friend who He raised from the dead. But its at the home of Simon the Leper, and it’s the sister of Lazarus, Mary, who anoints Jesus with the expensive perfume.
Now Luke’s account is very different from the other three, and this is believed to have happened at a much earlier time in Jesus’ ministry. Its at the home of a man named Simon but he’s a Pharisee, not a leper. Simon was a very common name, so there’s a lot of confusion when people read these different versions, they think that this is all happening with the same Simon. But this Simon is a man with some power, so he’s likely to have lived in a very nice home, on prime real estate. He’s also likely to have been courted by other rich and powerful people due to the fact that he is a Pharisee. He would have a home that would be built so that there was a room for dining and for conversation which could be easily seen and heard from the street. So, if there was someone very important visiting the town, the people who didn’t move in those higher circles could actually hear what this important person was saying by standing on the street outside of Simon’s house. But there was a gulf, if you will, that wasn’t crossed – a gulf between the haves and the have-nots.
Now Jesus was a new and exciting young preacher and is becoming very, very popular with the people. And so, Simon the Pharisee invites Him to dinner to learn more about Him. And actually, it was more likely that he was trying to figure out a way to diminish Jesus in the eyes of the people because Jesus’ message was the antithesis of what the Pharisees were as they were trying to hold on to their power.
Now you can imagine all of these powerful, important people sitting around the table waiting to hear Jesus speak. Suddenly, a sinful woman of the city barges in carrying an expensive jar of perfume across this gulf that she was not supposed to cross. And she immediately goes to Jesus and begins to weep so violently that her tears were numerous enough that they were able to cleanse His feet. And she dried them with hair. And then, she anointed His feet with the ointment. Not His head, but His feet. So, Simon, the Pharisee, a man of the law, who was safe because he follows the law says to himself, “If He were a prophet, He would know who and what kind of woman this is who is touching Him. She is a sinner.” If Simon knew Jesus at all, he would know that Jesus knew exactly who and what this woman was. This is Jesus who dined with sinners, and who healed with a simple touch of His hand. And then Jesus says to Simon, “Simon, I have something to say to you. “This is what you need to take away from this Sunday – this message. He tells Simon that as a host, Simon had not given Jesus even the most minor of courtesies. Simon didn’t greet Him. Simon didn’t give Him a kiss. Simon didn’t give Him water to wash His feet. He had not shown any hospitality to a guest that he had invited into him home Simon was a man who knew the law, had entertained many before Jesus, and yet he allowed his feelings of superiority in life to permit him to judge others, whether they be good or bad, worthy or unworthy and used the law to justify. Yet the woman, the sinner, had not ceased to show Jesus great love, bathing His feet in her tears, drying them with her hair, and then anointing them with a very expensive ointment. She was acutely aware of who she was. It doesn’t say what kind of sins the woman had committed, and it really wouldn’t have made any difference because, just as we heard in our first reading today, it makes no difference. She recognized her sins and was sorry and asked for God’s forgiveness. A Pharisee who thought he was sinless because he kept the law, and a woman who knew she was a sinner. Jesus told Simon, “The one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”
Jesus also tells us that God is Love.
Now as we close, I want to offer you this reflection, or challenge if you prefer. And this is just between you and God, so the only person that you are going to be able to confuse or mislead here is yourself. In the Gospel today, who are you? Are you Simon, the Pharisee – the one who knows it all and has always followed the rules, and had done what is asked of you, and yet something’s missing? Or are you the weeping woman? Have you known the disappointment of failure – failing your family, your friends, yourself, your God? I would venture to say that we’ve been both – at times, the one who knows it all with absolutely no needs, then at others, the one who knows nothing but need. My experience here at Prince of Peace is of a spirit-filled church with godly people. But even amongst godly people, it’s easy to fall. [Speaking to the First Communicants] And it’s okay, girls, to make mistakes It’s okay because it’s who we are. We make mistakes, but we should always know that we can go to God and tell Him that we’re sorry, and we know that we’re going to be forgiven.
Every mistake that we make has been covered by the Blood of the Cross. We just need to understand that God’s mercy is a gift with no cost because mercy isn’t something God does. Mercy is something that God is.
At least that’s what I heard Him say…