I was deeply struck by the audacity of the woman in today’s Gospel and found myself asking how did she come by such inner freedom? What inner force made it possible for her to act so spontaneously and uninhibitedly?
Perhaps I am way out, but I venture to say this was not her first encounter with Jesus. This is not a chance meeting. She is deliberately going to Simon’s house because Jesus is there and she brings ointment with her because she knows what she wants to do when she gets there. This woman knew who she was going to and was sure of the response she would receive because she had already been a recipient of Jesus love and knew herself to be loved and forgiven.  She knew that Jesus was aware of the purity and sincerity of her love for him. At some time this woman of ill repute, very familiar with all that can masquerade as love and it many caricatures, had recognised the real thing when she encountered it in Jesus and it had changed her. Now she really is in love and knows herself to be loved perhaps for the first time.
A woman whose self image was so poor that she allowed herself to be used to gratify others is suddenly sure of herself and is undaunted in the presence of men who belittle and despise her. This is the power love has. When we know we are loved fear falls away. Instead her sole focus is on Jesus. She has heard he is here at Simon’s house and she arrives complete with ointment with only one thought in mind to minister to her beloved.  With total disregard to how others would react, this would be prostitute interrupts the all male gathering and proceeds to kiss Jesus, wash his feet with her tears, dry them with her hair, and massage the with ointment brought specially with her for that purpose. What has wrought such a transformation? Jesus tells us himself: I tell you, he says to Simon ‘her sins her many sins, must have been forgiven her, or she would not have shown such great love’. Nothing prompts a response of love like the awareness of being forgiven. That is why great sinners often become great saints.
Simon and his companions look on and judge: judge her and judge Jesus. In both cases their judgement is erroneous. Jesus does know what kind of a woman is before him, a repentant sinner who loves him very much. He can read her in a glance as expected of a prophet, but as a true prophet his vision is clear. He sees what actually is. He sees her present not her past. All her gestures may have similarities to her past mode of activity but to Jesus who sees the heart, they are an expression of pure love, a love so overwhelming and so grateful that it needs must express itself extravagantly.
Jesus is utterly comfortable in the presence of such love. He is not embarrassed by it. In fact when he speaks he supports the woman and commends her actions, indicating that he prefers her demonstrativeness to Simon’s propriety which he finds wanting.
Simon on the other hand, because he is blinded by her past and who he thinks she is, is unable or unwilling to see her present. He is wrong about her and perhaps because he is so focused on her and all that is wrong with her, he fails in self-knowledge and Jesus has to confront him with his own behaviour, making him see what his actions are revealing about himself. He had in fact shown very little love and his omissions were supplied by this very woman whom he was condemning.
Jesus turns to the woman and just as her sins have been matter for public knowledge, so now he makes her forgiveness public. What she already knows, he makes known to others, leaving no doubt about her standing in his eyes.
I ask myself
  1. Do I really believe in the transforming power of Jesus love for myself and others
  2. Am I open to seeing that love changing others or do I hold them to their past.
  3. Do I impede or assist this process