Homilette for Thursday, September 18, 2008

Thursday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(Luke 7:36-50)

We may think of Jesus as unfriendly toward all Pharisees, but this is not the case. True, he does chastise some, but he also eats with others. He really has a lot in common with Pharisees. Like them Jesus is a layman and learned in the Law. Also like the Pharisees Jesus teaches in synagogues and exerts every effort to live righteously. Nothing should seem peculiar, therefore, in Jesus’ entering a Pharisee’s home in the gospel today.

Simon, the Pharisee, becomes scandalized when Jesus allows a notoriously sinful woman to wash his feet with her tears and dry them with her hair. Although he is too proper to say it out loud, Simon sees Jesus’ indulgence as evidence that he is not a true prophet. A prophet, he thinks, would see into a person’s heart to know whether she or he is worthy. But Jesus shows Simon to be dead wrong with the very criterion that Simon gives of a true prophet. First, he knows the woman’s heart to be repentant and thus receptive of God’s grace. Second, he reads the hypocrisy of Simon’s heart that criticizes too much and loves too little.

Jesus demonstrates God’s mercy as he forgives the woman her sins and enlightens Simon of his. Mercy at times requires fraternal correction as Jesus calls Simon to task for hypocrisy. It also will allow a humble person to express her love as Jesus permits the reformed woman to bathe his feet. We can pray with ever more hope that Jesus will treat us as graciously as he does these two sinners. As church-goers, we are susceptible to the sin of hypocrisy. When we criticize others unjustly, may Christ remind us of the sin that we commit. Then, may he offer us opportunities to show our love for him.