Enter into today’s Gospel reading with a prayerful, imaginative contemplation.From whose perspective do you pray? The Pharisee? The sinful woman? A bystander? Jesus?
I pray this passage and want to be the sinful woman, lavishing the merciful Jesus with gifts of kindness, expensive ointment, and service. No luck. My imagination keeps placing me in the chair of the Pharisee, who has sought relationship with Jesus, maybe with ulterior motives, and who falls into the predictable paradigm of the judging, self-righteous scold. I don’t want to be there.
Yet, there must be some truth in my identifying with the Pharisee. Am I too focused on what being close to Jesus can get for me? Am I too preoccupied in my following the letter of the Commandments, the Law, the Talmud, the Magisterium? Will I continue to force my adherence to the surface of legal or pious requirements upon every sinner in my sphere? Can I be humble enough to forget my own position and proximity to Jesus in order to celebrate. I want to be joyful like all those in Chapter 7 of Luke: the sinful one who receives God’s mercy and loves recklessly in return, the widow whose son Jesus raised from the dead, the centurion who humbly believed in Jesus’ power to heal, John the Baptist who knows Jesus as Messiah from his words and actions and not simply because Jesus proclaimed it.