Lectio Divina

Thursday - Ordinary Time

1) Opening prayer

Almighty God,
our creator and guide,
may we serve you with all our hearts
and know your forgiveness in our lives.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

2) Gospel Reading - Luke 7,36-50

One of the Pharisees invited Jesus 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.’

3) Reflection

Today’s Gospel presents the episode of the woman with the perfume who was accepted by Jesus during a feast in house of Simon the Pharisee. One of the aspects of the novelty of the Good News of Jesus is the surprising attitude of Jesus toward women. At the time of the New Testament women lived marginalized. In the Synagogue they could not participate in the public life and they could not be witnesses. Many women, though, resisted this exclusion. From the time of Ezra, the marginalization of women had been increasing on the part of the religious authority (Ezr 9, 1 to 10, 44), and the resistance of women against their exclusion, also increased, as we can see in the stories of Judith, Esther, Ruth, Noemi, Suzanne, and the Sulamite and others. This resistance found echo and acceptance in Jesus. In the episode of the woman with the perfume there is inconformity which springs up and the resistance of the women in the life of every day and the acceptance of Jesus.
Luke 7, 36-38: The situation which breaks out the debate. Three completely different persons meet with one another: Jesus, Simon, the Pharisee, a practicing Jew, and the woman, whom they said that she was a sinner. Jesus is in the house of Simon who has invited him to dinner with him. The woman enters, and she places herself at the feet of Jesus, and begins to cry bathing Jesus’ feet with her tears, and dries them with her loose hair. She kisses his feet and anoints them with perfume. To get the hair loose in public was a gesture of independence. Jesus does not draw back, nor does he send the woman away, rather he accepts her gesture.
Luke 7, 39-40: The reaction of the Pharisee and the response of Jesus. Jesus was accepting a person, who, according to the custom of the time, could not be accepted, because she was a sinner. The Pharisee, observing everything, criticizes Jesus and condemns the woman: “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”. Jesus uses a parable to respond to the provocation of the Pharisee.
Luke 7, 41-43: The parable of the two debtors. One owed 500 denarii, the other 50. Neither one was able to pay, both of them were forgiven. Which of them will love their master more? Response of the Pharisee: “The one who was let off more, I suppose!” The parable presupposes that both, the Pharisee and the woman, had received some favour from Jesus. In the attitude that both take before Jesus they indicate how much they appreciate the favour received. The Pharisee shows his love, his gratitude, by inviting Jesus to eat with him. The woman shows her love, her gratitude, by her tears, the kisses and the perfume.
Luke 7, 44-47: The message of Jesus for the Pharisee. After having received the response of the Pharisee, Jesus applies the parable. Even if he was in the house of the Pharisee, invited by him, Jesus does not lose the freedom to speak and to act. He defends the woman against the criticism of the practicing Jew. The message of Jesus for the Pharisees of all times is this one: “The one who is forgiven little, loves little!” A Pharisee thinks that he is not a sinner because he observes the law in everything. The personal assurance that I, a Pharisee, create for myself many times, in the observance of the Law of God and of the Church, prevents me from experiencing the gratuity of the love of God. What is important is not the observance of the law in itself, but the love with which I observe the law. And using the symbols of the love of the woman, Jesus responds to the Pharisee who considered himself to be in peace with God: “you poured no water over my feet; you gave me no kiss, you did not anoint my head with perfumed oil! Simon, in spite of the banquet that you have offered me, you have loved very little!”
Luke 7, 48-50: The word of Jesus to the woman. Jesus declares that the woman is forgiven and then adds: “Your faith has saved you, go in peace!” Here we have the novelty of the attitude of Jesus. He does not condemn but he accepts. It is faith which helps the woman to encounter herself and to encounter God. In the relationship with Jesus, a new force springs up in her and makes her be born again.

4) Personal questions

Where, when and how are women despised or rejected by the Pharisee of today?
The woman certainly would not have done what she did if she was not absolutely certain that Jesus would accept her. Do the marginalized and migrant persons have the same certainty today?

5) Concluding Prayer

For Yahweh is good,
his faithful love is everlasting,
his constancy from age to age. (Ps 100,5)


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Last revised: 8 September 2008