11th Sunday Ordinary Time
June 12, 2016
Simon the Pharisee was entertaining guests in the courtyard of his home (Luke 7:36-8:3). It was common at that time for Rabbis who were teaching to have other Jews enter the courtyard to listen. Jesus was also present at this gathering. A notorious woman with a very dubious reputation also slipped in with the other listeners, but she was not there to hear the Pharisee. No, she was there because of Jesus.
Women of this time frequently wore a pendant around their neck containing expensive perfume. It was one of their most precious possessions and was used sparingly, if ever. So having an alabaster vial of rich perfume was not at all unusual. But what she did with it was unusual. She poured this aromatic ointment all over Jesus’ feet (not the usual location to use it!), after washing them with her tears and drying them with her hair.
This woman committed a number of social gaffes, not the least of which was letting down her hair in public. Only the lowest type of woman would normally do this, and Simon, the Pharisee, who was watching everything, formed a harsh opinion of both Jesus and this woman. Why had she done such a thing in public?
She was so grateful to Jesus that she literally gave all she had: one of her most treasured possessions (the alabaster jar of perfume), her tears (an unacceptable display of emotion), her service (washing his feet, which only a servant would do), and letting her hair down to dry them (thus humiliating herself in public). In short, the woman gave everything she possibly could to Jesus, for Jesus had given her the one thing she needed most – forgiveness.
How much we give of ourselves to Jesus in this life depends in large measure on how much we think Jesus has done for us. Simon the Pharisee apparently had little love for Jesus, but the poor, sinful, and disadvantaged woman literally could not do enough for him. Which of these two people do my actions most identify with?