11th Ordinay – June 13rd – Ah, You are here!!
“There are two types of people in the world. The first are those who bounce into a room and shout, ‘Rejoice, I am here.’ The second are those who come into the same room and exclaim, ‘Ah, there you are.” So has a pundit written correctly about us. Simon the Pharisee is the former. The woman sinner is the latter.
Clearly Luke was not a male chauvinist. No one speaks more favorably or more often than he about women with the exception of his Master. His work is properly called the Gospel of Women. But it is equally correct to call it the Gospel of Forgiveness. None of the Evangelists speaks as frequently as Luke about the forgiving spirit that motivates the Nazarene. There is no virtue that Jesus recommended that Plato and Cicero had not run up the flagpole before Him. But what makes the Christ an original is His power to forgive sins.
The story is told with such bold strokes that it supports the tradition that Luke was an artist. It is said he painted a portrait of Mary. Imagine what a price such a picture would command in the auction houses of London and New York City.
There is mystery about the tale. His is the only Gospel to tell the account. He does not tell us the time or place of the incident. That is unusual. And who was the Simon the Pharisee? We have no clue. Simon was a common name. It is mentioned eight times n the New Testament. Why was Luke so stingy on the facts? He wouldn’t get a job on the History Channel.
Though prostitute, the woman is clearly the hero of the story. Unlike Simon, she is not named. What is likely is that Luke wants to deliberately protect her identity from any possible detractors. Again is evidenced his concern for women.
Simon from his manners or, better, the absence of them did not invite Jesus out of a spirit of hospitality and bonhomie. He just wanted to check Him out. He probably had heard much about this wonderworker. Notice in verse 40 he, tongue in cheek, addresses his guest as “Rabbi.” He was patronizing. Luke infers that though he could buy and sell most of us, he was in spirit a very small guy. He was hardly a “mi casa tu casa” host.
Christ was aware of the contempt in which Simon held Him. He had not given Him the traditional welcome kiss on the cheek. He had not offered Him any water to wash the heavy dust of the roads off His sandal-covered feet. He had not poured perfumed olive oil on His Perspiration covered head. As He sat down to supper, Christ must have felt physically uncomfortable and unclean. But He kept His silence. There would be time enough for a tete-a-tete with Simon before the night’s meal became history. Christ would have the last word.
To take advantage of breezes, the meal would be held in a courtyard. It was the air-conditioning machine of the day.
Traditionally the poor were allowed to come in and gape at their betters. They would keep their mouths firmly shut. This was their peculiar idea of a night out.
Luke pointedly tells us the prostitute stood behind Jesus. Had she walked out of the house into the courtyard? She seems to know her way about the mansion. Also Simon knows what she does for a living. Is Luke telling us he has used her services? If so, Simon is not merely a coarse prig but also a hypocrite.
She speaks no words to the Teacher. Nor does she presume to touch His head though it needs anointing. Rather, she washes His dirty feet with her tears and perfume and then dries them with her long hair. It was the gravest of offenses for a Jewish woman to appear publicly with her hair loose. But for the Christ it was all systems go. The sky was the limit. For her beau geste, Jesus forgives her sins. He compliments her. He knows “compliments fall lightly, but they carry great weight.”
Jesus works Simon over with His sharp tongue. He must have caused him serious indigestion. Simon quickly realized that whatever this Rabbi might b e, He was no nerd. He had misjudged the Man. He would never go mano a mano with Him again.
The Pharisee is a moral midget. The woman a moral giant.
It is said if want to be like the woman, adopt Luke’s ten point program. Pray Big. Think Big. Believe Big. Act Big. Dream Big. Work Big. Give Big. Forgive Big. Love Big. Laugh Big.
Father James Gilhooley