The gospel today provides us with an account of a woman who weeps at the feet of Jesus, Then she wipes them away with her hair. She covers the feet with kisses and anoints them with the ointment, as a show of extravagant love and gratitude.
In the gospel, it happens that a Pharisee and a religious leader whose name is Simon invites Jesus to dine in his home.
When Jesus arrives at the house of the Pharisee and takes a place at the table, the woman comes in suddenly.
Luke tells us that she had already heard that Jesus is dining with the pharisee. Then she brings with her an alabaster jar of ointment and goes straight to the feet of Jesus and weeps. And then kisses and anoints the feet.
Then Simon begins to talk in his heart, that if Jesus is truly a mighty prophet, He would know the person touching Him and would not have allowed it. The gospel of today is full of lessons. The first question we have to ask ourselves today is why the anointing?
The Sinful Woman.
Luke’s gospel does not tell us the name of this woman and does not tell us where the anointing happened. It is good to note here that this particular event was reported by all the gospels but only Luke says that this woman has a bad name in the town.
1. Luke says that she has a bad name in the town. Now, when this anointing and wiping of feet was going on, Simon begins to murmur in His heart that if Jesus is truly a prophet, He would have known the woman that is touching Him. In essence, He wouldn’t have allowed that.
Therefore, how people think is not how God thinks. It was then that Jesus tells Simon a parable and then says “the reason I tell you this is that her sins, her many sins, must have been forgiven her, or she would not have shown such great love. It is the man who is forgiven little who shows little love”.
This in effect confirms that one of the reasons the woman shows this great love is to show gratitude. Maybe she had a previous encounter with Jesus, in which her sins were forgiven and now she comes to show Jesus great love and gratitude.
So, the woman shows that she appreciates deeply an encounter she had with Jesus presumably and this is the reason she has to come immediately to weep and wipe the feet of Jesus.
This is a sign of love, repentance and gratitude.
Therefore, when God forgives our pasts, it is good to show that we truly appreciate such an encounter.
Coming back to God after our sacramental confession or penitential service should give us joy. We should appreciate our coming back, instead of seeing that as a burden.
2. Secondly, according to other gospel narratives, this anointing happened in Bethany. Luke, Mark and Matthew say that it happened in the house of Simon the leper.
Simon is from Bethany according to Mark and Matthew. We can confidently conclude here that the anointing happened in Bethany.
Before, some people used to accuse Mary of Magdala to be the woman that anoints the feet of Jesus and hence a sinful woman. Although Pope Francis has corrected such erroneous interpretations.
We have to note here that the anointing happened in Bethany and since the woman who anoints the feet of Jesus is from the same town, She is from Bethany and not Magdala.
3. According to other gospel’s narratives, the woman anointed the feet of Jesus, not because of her past but as a preparation for the burial that is awaiting Jesus ( Read Mark 14:6-8, Matthew 26:12, John 12:7). Only Luke says she has a bad image but other gospel accounts do not say such.
4. Only John says that this woman who anointed the feet of Jesus is Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus (John 12:3). Therefore, the woman could be Mary of Bethany.
5. Therefore, whether she has bad name or not, this anointing first of all reveals the messianic mission of Jesus which He is going to accomplish on the cross.
Hence, it shows the love, closeness, the gratitude that the woman has for Jesus.
So, when God forgives our past we need to show we truly love Him. The only way to show that we love Him is not to anoint His leg but to make the decision to begin to keep His word.
We do not go to confession or ask for forgiveness because we want to prepare for something. Many times during Lent, Christmas and New year, many Christians will be making an effort to make peace with God.
When those seasons are over, we return to square one. The Church in her effort is trying to use those events to bring us closer to God, but we do not have to use them to play on God’s intelligence. Our closeness with God should come from the heart.
In today’s gospel, this woman shows true repentance and what gladdens the heart of God, is not when we come back to Him because we want to do a prayer journey or because we want Him to answer our prayers but when we come to Him with true and sincere hearts.
Therefore, when God forgives our past, let us show God that we have sincerely decided to return to Him.
Our relationship with God should be bound by love and not like an ATM. When God forgives our past it shows He truly wants us to be close to Him. When we come back to Him, it gives Him great joy as we see in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32).
Therefore, the way to repay Him is to show that we truly appreciate His love and keep the word. 1 John 2:4 says “Whoever says, “I know Him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person”.
Therefore, If we do not appreciate the relationship and if our closeness with God does not give us joy, our relationship with God will be like an ATM. We then take Him as the One we come and take what we want and go back to where we have been.
In John 14:24, Jesus says “Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey my teaching”.
Therefore, if our closeness with God gives us great joy, we will always appreciate the relationship.
He says in John 14:23 “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make Our home with him”.
What matters to God is how we long to be close to Him. It shows we truly cherish the relationship.
The Past is Gone.
When the woman was wiping the feet of Jesus, Simon begins to say to himself, ‘If this man is a prophet, he would know who this woman is that is touching him and what a bad name she has”.
In essence, Jesus would not have allowed her. First of all, this shows that God is ready to welcome anyone. He is available for all. He does not think of our pasts anymore if we ask for forgiveness.
Therefore, if we think that there is something that we did that is holding us from coming to Jesus, we are the ones holding ourselves back.
Jesus is ready to forgive our past again and make us new. When God forgives our past, we have to remove whatever belongs to the past and begin a new life.
Secondly, Simon was still dwelling on the past of this woman. While the woman is no longer the person he thinks her to be.
Her encounter with Jesus has changed her. Therefore, there are times people may still take us like the previous way they know us. Let it not worry you.
What matters is life now and not the past. Therefore, when God forgives your past, it is gone and gone forever. Do not bring it in again. Quit staying and dying in guilt. Remove the past and forge on.
Certainly, people will always talk and refer to you like you were in the past. This is normal. Hence, what they think about you does not matter.
What matters is what God thinks about us. What matters is that God has given us a new life. This should give us joy.
Let us bury the past and accept the future blessings that are awaiting us.
Therefore, when God forgives our past, the past is gone. Let us appreciate this great opportunity and keep to it.
May God have mercy on us and give us the grace to live in His Word. May He continue to protect you. Amen.