This Sunday we hear Jesus offering words of forgiveness (Luke 7:36 - 8:3). An uninvited nameless woman shows up at the dinner party that Jesus has been invited to. Her lavish actions make the host of the dinner party, Simon the Pharisee, very uncomfortable, embarrassed and even disgusted both with her and with Jesus. Simon said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.”
Simon's love is thin in this story because he doesn't recognize his need for grace. The woman, in contrast, knows full well the extent of her own sin and the wide embrace of Jesus’ forgiveness, so her love for him is boundless.
Ephrem of Syria writes in the fourth century about the physical elements of worship that convey God’s grace to us. Along with wine and bread, there is the beautiful oil. Notice how the oil, not the wine, is the element of joy in the final poetic line:
Wheat, the olive and grapes, created for our use—
the three of them serve You symbolically in three ways.
With three medicines You healed our disease.
Humankind had become weak and sorrowful and was failing.
You strengthened her with Your blessed bread,
and You consoled her with Your sober wine,
and You made her joyful with Your holy chrism.
—“Hymn 37,” Ephrem the Syrian: Hymns, trans. Kathleen E. McVey (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1989), 425
Needless to say, this is an important lesson, and Jesus teaches it beautifully in the parable he shares with Simon. Those who are forgiven little, love little, but those who are forgiven much, love lavishly.
Jesus asks Simon, “Do you see this woman?” He doesn't see her humanity, her generosity, her capacity for deep and embodied love neither does he see Jesus' humanity, vast generosity and his capacity for deep and embodied love.
How well do we see our neighbours, or ourselves? Can we see like Jesus sees?
Come to worship on Sunday and experience in story, song and meal the wideness of God's mercy given for you.