A reflection on Luke 7:36-50
When I pay attention to the secret ruminations of my heart, I am often dismayed by how often I think like Jesus’ host Simon does in this story of the woman who anoints Jesus’ feet. Sour observations, wrong-headed because of my lack of good information, cause me to draw erroneous conclusions. Acting on these barely conscious judgments excludes and hurts good people.
Jesus calls Simon out. But he does not say, “Quit judging me and this woman who is anointing me.” Instead he talks about how forgiving big debts inspires big love.
What, I wonder, are Simon’s big debts, the ones that, in offering them up to Jesus and experiencing God’s forgiveness, would make him weep tears of relief and joy. We all have those.
The woman with the expensive oil has somehow experienced God’s life-giving understanding and compassion. The ignorance out of which she has judged herself a worthless sinner has ended, and she has come into the light of God’s unfathomable love.
When I find myself thinking like Simon does in this story, I realize I am not being vulnerable enough with God. I am not praying with my whole self. For if I were to pray from all of myself I would pray everything, including my big debts – those things I do or fail to do, think or fail to think, believe or fail to believe that are deadly in that they estrange me from my neighbors and from God. When I bring my big transgressions into my prayer life, I really have no room left for my sour machinations. All I have is the blinding need and longing for God.
All of us are the notorious sinning woman. And when we pray with the whole of ourselves, each one of us finds God’s forgiveness, that relationship with God that belongs only to us. We experience the love that makes us weep and pour out our most expensive treasures, washing the feet of the Holy in thanksgiving and praise.
Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and liturgical artist, a writer and lay preacher living in Fort Collins, CO. See her work online at Everyday Mysteries.