One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to share his meal, so he went to the Pharisee’s home and as usual reclined at the table to eat. And it happened that a woman of this town, who was known as a sinner, heard that he was in the Pharisee’s house. She brought an alabaster jar of perfume and stood behind him at his feet, weeping. She wet his feet with tears, she dried them with her hair and kissed his feet and poured the perfume on them.
The Pharisee who had invited Jesus was watching and thought, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what sort of person is touching him; isn’t this woman a sinner?”
Then Jesus spoke to the Pharisee and said, “Simon, I have something to ask you.” He answered, “Speak, master.” And Jesus said, “Two people were in debt to the same creditor. One owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other fifty. As they were unable to pay him back, he graciously canceled the debts of both. Now, which of them will love him more?”
Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, who was forgiven more.” And Jesus said, “You are right.” And turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? You gave me no water for my feet when I entered your house, but she has washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You didn’t welcome me with a kiss, but she has not stopped kissing my feet since she came in. You provided no oil for my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. This is why, I tell you, her sins, her many sins, are forgiven, because of her great love. But the one who is forgiven little, has little love.”
Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” The others reclining with him at the table began to wonder, “Now this man claims to forgive sins!” But Jesus again spoke to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace!”
“Your faith has saved you.” These words are strange conclusion to today’s gospel episode, which has dealt only with forgiveness and gratitude until now. And yet, Jesus is quite right. At the root of any conversion, there is an act of faith. In fact, the hardest thing about conversion is precisely this act of faith. Strictly speaking, it is not too difficult to see oneself as a sinner. With a modicum of lucidity, the fact leaps to the eye. To perceive oneself as spiritually leprous, despicable, unacceptable, can be a matter of sheer honesty. But after that, to believe that God can accept the unacceptable being that I am requires faith. St. John knew this well, for he wrote: “As for us, we have acknowledged God’s love for us and we have believed in it” (1 Jn 4:16). Yes indeed, however strange this may seem, to accept being loved by God when one is unlovable requires a great deal of faith. The sinner of this gospel episode has made this gigantic leap into the void: However great a sinner she was, she believed that God could love her as she was. She believed that “God was greater than her heart” (1 Jn 3:20). That is why she is told at the end: “Go in peace.”
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