September 18, 2008
Thursday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Luke 7: 36-50
One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he 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." Jesus spoke up and said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." "Teacher," he replied, "Speak." "A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?" Simon answered, "I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt." And Jesus said to him, "You have judged rightly." Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little." Then he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" And he said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."
Introductory Prayer: Lord, I thank you for this time to be with you. Help me to use it well. Increase my faith so that I can see your hand directing my life. Increase my hope so that I might trust you in everything. Increase my love so that I can be faithful to you in the smallest details of my life. Let me never be separated from you.
Petition: Help me, Lord Jesus, to dine with you with the proper dispositions and extend to you the courtesies of which you are worthy.
1. Christ is Divine
Once again we find Jesus doing what is reserved in the Old Testament for God alone: forgiving sin. (Forgiveness continues to be dispensed by God alone in our day and age, except that he accomplishes it through the voice and hands of his ministerial priests here on earth.) As noted author C.S. Lewis points out in Mere Christianity, it is impossible to read the Gospels and conclude that Christ is a great prophet, but not divine. He was either God or a bad man, even possessed. Jesus claimed expressly to be God. He said, "Before Abraham was, I Am" (John 8:58), the “I Am” being the name God gave for himself to Moses. Moreover, he implicitly claimed to be God whenever he forgave sins, a frequent occurrence in all of the Gospel narratives. Once we make our choice to believe in Jesus, what follows?
2. Where Sin Abounds, Grace Abounds More
God entered time and space with a mission. That mission was (and is) to free as many souls as possible from the bondage and oppression of sin. The gift of sanctifying grace, lost to humanity when our first parents sinned, became available to us again through Jesus Christ. And sanctifying grace literally opens the gates of heaven for us, if we cooperate with it. Heaven rejoices at the repentance and salvation of a single sinner. All heaven rejoiced with Jesus at the salvation of the woman in this Gospel passage. She in turn was moved to tears at being forgiven and released from the bondage of her sins; grace overcame her, and love for Christ poured forth. History is replete with great sinners who were forgiven much, loved much, and became great saints: St. Mary Magdalene, St. Paul, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Augustine, to name a few. Can we follow in their footsteps? God loves us and wants to meet us frequently in the sacrament of reconciliation in order to forgive our debt of sin, whether it is five hundred denarii or fifty. He wants us to cry tears of joy at being truly free—free to know, love and serve him in this life, so that we can be forever happy with him in the next.
3. How Do We Receive Jesus?
Jesus agrees to dine at Simon the Pharisee’s home, yet Simon fails to extend to Jesus certain basic courtesies of the time. Simon does not greet Jesus with a kiss, does not offer him water for his feet, and does not anoint his head with oil. These failures demonstrate Simon’s lack of faith, especially as contrasted with the weeping woman, who makes up for all three slights. How do we compare with Simon? Jesus agrees to dine with us every time we attend Mass. In fact, he eagerly anticipates it: “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer …” (Luke 22:15). How do we prepare ourselves to greet him, and to receive him in holy Communion? Most importantly, in what condition is our soul? But also, do we bear witness to our faith through basic courtesies, like arriving on time, dressing appropriately, genuflecting when we enter and exit our pew, conducting ourselves with appropriate love and reverence? Have we observed the Communion fast? Do we explain to our children (as appropriate) the parts of the Mass, and reinforce for them in word and deed Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist?
Dialogue with Christ: Lord Jesus, your forgiveness of my trespasses has given me new life and new hope. By your mercy, I have been made brand new. I am exceedingly grateful for your gift to me, and you have filled my heart with joy. Thank you so much for your invitation to dine with you at the Eucharistic table. No banquet has ever served richer, more satisfying food. Help me never take this gift for granted, Lord. Allow me to show you my love and appreciation by the energy and focus I exercise during the Mass, extending to you every possible courtesy.
Resolution: I will arrive at least five minutes early to Mass this Sunday in order to quiet my soul and properly prepare my heart to receive my Lord in holy Communion.
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