11th Sunday in Ordinary Time


By Emily VanBerkum

How many times in our lives have we played the role of Simon from today’s Gospel account? During dinner together, Simon the Pharisee questions Jesus’ willingness to accept the hospitality of a “sinful” woman who showed up unexpectedly. In Jesus’ time, the very presence of this marginalized woman and her subsequent actions- weeping at Jesus’ feet, bathing them with her tears, anointing them with ointment then drying them with her hair- would have been understandably shocking during an all-male dinner party. What naturally followed was Simon’s skepticism. Simon believed that if Jesus were truly a Prophet he would know that this woman is a sinner and therefore would not break with custom or purity laws by allowing her to touch him.

However, this very encounter proved just what a great Prophet Jesus really was. Even in the Old Testament, prophets acted counter-culturally and served as a mouthpiece for God’s message- often times in an environment that proved unwilling to hear such a message despite its great need. Through this interaction with the woman, Jesus was able to communicate God’s message loud and clear. In fact, Jesus used a parable about two debtors to ensure no ambiguity in conveying God’s abundant love and forgiveness to the sinner.

According to Jesus’ parable, a creditor had two debtors, “one owed five hundred denarii, the other fifty.” However when neither could repay the debt, the creditor cancelled the debts for both of them. Looking at the woman, Jesus explained to Simon that he felt truly graced by the presence and hospitality of a contrite sinner kneeling at his feet. The woman’s sins were forgiven because in spite of her unworthiness she managed to show Jesus “great love.”

What a relevant message for us today. No matter what crosses we bear- or how lengthy our self-perceived laundry list of sins happens to be- God wants to forgive us and we must continually bear witness to Christ through “great love” shown to others.

We must not play the part of Simon by comparing our personal sins to that of another assuming that we are better or worse off than them. In faith, place all that you are by the feet of Jesus, and He will transform your unworthiness and sinfulness into profound joy and selfless love. A selfless love that both helps keep us close and draws others to Christ.

Sunday’s Readings:

2 Samuel 12.7-10, 13

Galatians 2:16, 19-21

Luke 7.36-8.3