Jesus was dining with a Pharisee and some of his friends. A woman approached and stood at Jesus’ feet. Everyone was watching the woman carefully – she came to Jesus because she knew he was a holy man, close to God and that He would understand her. She knew that something was seriously wrong in her life. She did not appreciate herself as a woman, the way God designed her. She was searching for love but in all the wrong places. She gave herself to a variety of men, but felt more and more empty, and used.
She didn’t have the theological understanding that Paul would have about Jesus but just knew that he was the one who could help her, understand her, heal her and point her in the right direction.
So she did what her heart told her to do. She approached Jesus. She would do the simple act of a good host when welcoming a guest: washing his feet. She knelt down by his feet and began bathing them with her tears. Think of all the tears! She didn’t say a word, but her actions said everything for her. Then she dried his feet with her copious hair, then kissed them and anointed them with perfume.
Jesus understood. This woman wanted to find real love and forgiveness. She came to a man who could heal her. By pouring out her love, and her tears, she was also cleansing her soul. She knew she had to do something, so she took the initiative and came to Jesus.
Jesus used the occasion to give us a powerful lesson on love. The person who has been forgiven more will love you more. And he said to her “Your sins are forgiven. … Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
This episode in the life of Jesus teaches us much about love, faith, and forgiveness. Jesus came to teach us about all of these things.
You and I come to Jesus, much like the woman. We know what it means to make mistakes, to stumble and fall, to have moments of weakness, to hurt others, to be overly concerned with numero uno, to hold grudges, to shirk our responsibilities, to ignore the plight of people who are hurting right in front of us, and to cling to our favorite vices. We know when something is wrong in our lives and needs correction. We know when our hearts are empty and yearn for real love.
As we move through life, it is guaranteed that we will have many occasions to stumble and fall. Real life always brings new challenges, new problems, calling for new adjustments. Real life never stands still. How will I react, respond to this person who brings a new problem to me? Will it be with generosity, and concern for the person with the problem? Or will it be with hesitation, a reluctance to interfere with my comfort zone? Can I say "no" to myself, to my inordinate desires, like David for Bathsheba, and be content with the blessings I have? Can I leave my past successes in the past, and take the risks of the unforeseen future?
We Catholics are very fortunate to have the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We can take all the baggage we are carrying and unload it when we confess our sins to Jesus. Jesus knows we will have problems in this world, but he tells us to have no fear because He has overcome the world, and with His reliable help, so can we.
As we move through life, through these 70-80 years, we will have many, many opportunities to grow in our ability to love, to give of ourselves. No two years are the same. No two days are the same. New problems, new challenges, new opportunities will come into our lives. Will we meet them with complete faith? With whatever the situation calls for, with generosity motivated by love?
I enjoy reading biographies. You see how other people responded to the challenges in their lives and times. A remarkable person finds creative ways to respond to the needs and challenges of his or her times. They put more goodness back into the world than what they found.
We Catholics have many blessings to draw upon. We have much to give to our society, to our culture, if we draw deeply upon the resources of our Faith. The motivation behind all this will be the love we have found in Jesus, and the ability He has given us to respond to that love in kind.
Here is a simple test to see if we are open to others, who carry a social stigma, as Jesus was open. If a prisoner, who served his time and corrected his ways, was paroled and came among us, would we accept him, and help him to weave his life back into regular civilian life? Or would the stigma of his past prevent all that?
St. Paul says: “I have been crucified with Christ.” That means he has died to the old order of things, to the slavery of sin and the regime of the Old Covenant. Paul says: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me, and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
This is our situation. Jesus lives in us. He is part of our lives. He is the source of our strength. Our task is to place our complete faith, our complete confidence in him. Sometimes life can be difficult, a real challenge. Where do we find our strength? In Jesus, who loves us and gave himself for us. If Jesus, the Son of God, could go so far as to die on a cross for us, and then come back to life fully restored, then we know, that we can sink our absolute trust in him.