Thursday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
(I Timothy 4:12-16; Luke 7:36-50)
Once in medieval times, two monks were walking through a forest and came to a river. There a beautiful young woman was waiting for someone to help her. Because she could not swim, she asked the monks if one of them would carry her to the other side. The older of the monks picked her up and waded across the water with her in his arms. The younger monk was aghast at the action. After they had gone their way, he asked the senior monk if he were not ashamed to hold so intimately such a lovely woman. “Younger brother,” the elder monk said, “I only picked her up in my arms and let her go on the other side of the river. You, however, picked her up in your mind and have not yet ceased to let go of her.”
Like the older monk, Jesus can allow the woman in the gospel today to stroke his feet with tears, hair, and hands without becoming infatuated. He evidently realizes that the woman is not flirting with him but knows that he is God’s messenger capable of bringing peace to her troubled heart. As remarkable as his allowing the woman to shower him with affection is Jesus’ concern for the Pharisee. Perhaps he merely does not want to leave him with the wrong impression, but more likely Jesus desires that Simon recognize and repent his own evil ways. Like the prodigal father who, after celebrating his younger son’s return, leaves the party to address the resentment of his older son, Jesus desires all to become reconciled with God.
Beyond indicating how God is ready to forgive even the gravest of sins, this unforgettable story shows us how to resist sexual temptation. People often show affection to others not to convey desire for sexual intimacy but out of the need for healthy human relations. We are wise not to allow our imaginations to run wild but to respond to all, like Jesus, with concern for their welfare.