Fr. Mike’s Homily for Thursday of the 24th week in Ordinary Time Cycle I
Theme: Overcoming sinfulness with holiness
By: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches
Homily for Thursday September 16 2021
A Pharisee invited him to dine with him, and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee. Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. “Two people were in debt to a certain creditor; one owed five hundred days’ wages and the other owed fifty. Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both. Which of them will love him more?” Simon said in reply, “The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.” He said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment. So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The others at table said to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” But he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Simon the Pharisee invited Jesus to dine in his home. But based on the way he welcomed Him, it is clear that he does not have high regard for Him. This is because he did not accord Him with the basic demands of Jewish hospitality. Jesus Himself directly points this out to him. “When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet; You did not give me a kiss; You did not anoint my head with oil.”
Jesus contrasts his behavior with that of the unnamed sinful woman who barged into the house: “She has bathed [my feet] with her tears and wiped them with her hair; she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered; she anointed my feet with ointment.”
The woman is known to be a sinner, which means, she is a woman of ill-repute. But what is very clear is that her intentions were sincere. She must have heard Jesus speak several times, and she is moved to genuine sorrow for her sins and asks forgiveness from the Lord.
But the reaction of Simon is far from encouraging. He has nothing good to say about the woman. In the first place, women were generally regarded as second-class citizens. And worse, she is a woman considered as public sinner. In addition, he even judges Jesus, entertaining in his mind serious doubts about Him: “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.”
Fully aware of this, Jesus tells Simon a story about two debtors. One owed five hundred days’ wages and the other only fifty. However, their creditor wrote off their debts. Jesus asks, which of the two would express more gratitude and appreciation for the creditor? And Simon gives the obvious answer: the one with the larger debt.
Jesus, then, applies the parable to this situation. Both the Pharisee and the woman received some favor from Jesus. But they have different expressions of gratitude. The Pharisee shows this by inviting Jesus to his house for a sumptuous dinner. On the other hand, the woman shows her gratitude by her tears, the kisses and the expensive perfume. The Pharisee does not see the need to express any gratitude to Jesus. After all, he is a good man, faithful in the fulfillment of all religious duties. Hence, his show of appreciation is minimal: no washing of feet, no giving of a welcome kiss, and no anointing of oil. But the woman, with all her grave sins totally forgiven, gives her all in thanking and praising Jesus, even to the point that her actions could be interpreted as lacking propriety.
And Jesus points out the moral of the story: “So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”
One big challenge in bringing back sinners to conversion is society’s general attitude towards them. There is the tendency to stigmatize them. And so wrongdoers, regardless of how they have already reformed their lives, find it extremely difficult to gain the trust and respect of society. Their past haunts them and this blocks their momentum towards new life.
Thankfully, God does not work that way. The Gospel today shows us how, through Jesus, God relates with sinners. He deals with persons as they are in the present. When God forgives, the past does not matter anymore. He gives the repentant sinner a new heart and a new chance for a new life. With God’s forgiveness, he can look forward with confidence towards the fullness of life. As the saying goes, “The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.”
The Gospel lesson today should give us the courage and perseverance in our struggle to overcome our sinfulness and to gradually grow in holiness. This should also move us to be more understanding and compassionate towards our fellow sinners so that they, too, may be encouraged to reform their lives and be fully welcomed by the church community.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches