Saint Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Optional Memorial)

 

Do you see this woman?

 

Simon saw an outcast—a sinful woman with a bad reputation—crashing his dinner party.   She was definitely not his kind of people.   Didn’t Jesus realize this?   Couldn’t he tell that she wasn’t his kind of people either?

But that’s not what Jesus saw.   He saw a woman whose burdens of guilt and sin had been lifted off of her.   Now all she wanted to do was honor him by performing a simple act of love and worship.   In a way, as Jesus explained, she had an advantage over Simon:   her sins were many and obvious, and so her joy at being forgiven was great.

Simon made the mistake of thinking that he was better than this woman.   Perhaps his sins were not as great.   Maybe he did sin less; we don’t know.   But his joy was definitely less as well.   And his devotion to Jesus paled in comparison to this woman’s.   Of course, being upright and respectable has certain rewards, but nothing compares with the friendship with God that comes when we confess our sins and ask his Spirit to help us do better.

Whether you consider yourself a decent citizen or a social outcast, you still need Jesus’ mercy.   Whether you fall somewhat short or fall very short, you still need Jesus’ outstretched arms to bring you into heaven.   Simon couldn’t see this, and so he ended up considering himself to be on more or less equal terms with Jesus.   But he was more like this woman than he cared to admit:   he too needed mercy.

It’s ironic, isn’t it?   The one who was more keenly aware of her sins ended up happier and more richly blessed.   Jesus wants to lift our burdens.   He wants to remove anything that keeps us from knowing his love.   But he can do that only with our cooperation.   He respects us too much to force his mercy on us.   Only the ones who see their sin and confess their need for him can receive the freedom this woman knew.

So who are you going to imitate?   The repentant woman, who honored Jesus and left that dinner filled with joy?   Or the Pharisee, who judged Jesus and was left with only the bill for the dinner?

“Jesus, thank you for your infinite mercy!   Help me to see and confess any sin that keeps me from you.”

1 Timothy 4:12-16
Psalm 111:7-10

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