Gospel Reflections

11th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Luke 7:36-8:3

Sunday Gospel Reflection by Sister Nina Vandamme

Published: June 12, 2016

One of the Pharisees had invited Jesus for a meal at his home. Their pleasant evening was suddenly disturbed by the arrival of an uninvited guest - a woman. She had found out where Jesus was and had come to see Him, bringing with her an alabaster box containing ointment, in order to show her love for Him.

The woman’s attention was focused entirely on Jesus, as if the other members of the dinner party were not there. She was lost in an outpouring of tenderness and love for Jesus. She cleaned His feet with kisses and tears, dried them with her own hair, and then anointed them with oil.

The Pharisees are appalled by this undignified display. They know the woman in question to be a notorious sinner and their displeasure can be clearly read on their faces. Moreover, Jesus’ reaction troubles them. How can He be a prophet if He is incapable of seeing what sort of woman this is and does not know her disgraceful history of sin and degradation? Is Jesus really worthy of their support for him as a possible Messiah? They immediately start to fill Jesus in on just who this woman is. Jesus cuts them short, however, and seizes the opportunity, by addressing his host by name and in a disarming tone, to tell them a “story.” When he finishes the story, Jesus asks the Pharisee, whom he knows to be an erudite man, to give his opinion on what the moral conclusion of the story is. The Pharisee, seeing this to be a clear-cut case, offers his view and he and Jesus both agree that this is the correct interpretation.
Jesus now proceeds, very subtly, to demonstrate the link between the story and what has just happened with the woman. He asks them to consider the woman’s actions and explains that their forgiveness of her must be in proportion to the love she has shown and He praises her. At the same time, Jesus is not afraid to point out to the Pharisee that he had been remiss in his treatment of his guest, by “failing to show Him love.” This made His host and the other guests feel very uncomfortable.

That Jesus forgives sin is an affront to them. They ask themselves: “Who is this man?” How should they regard Him? They are baffled and confused. Moreover, Jesus praises the woman for her faith, yet their own faith seems increasingly to be in doubt. What a contrast!

In the New Testament we see again and again that what most deeply touches Jesus is when He meets someone who “has faith” and expresses that faith. This causes an outpouring of love from Jesus, which the woman (the believer) has set in motion. She wants to join the Apostles and the small group of women who are accompanying Him on his travels through Galilee, in order to bear witness.

  • How do the guests react? What effect does all of this have on them ... and on me?
  • Who do I recognize myself in?
  • Which person in the story invites me to change my way of life?
  • What motivates me when I invite someone for a meal?
  • Would I permit the meal I had prepared to be disturbed by an unexpected guest?
  • How do I react when I hear about someone’s sinful past? Or when I witness an expression of love?
  • Am I able to look beyond what people do, to see the heart that is inside them?
  • Am I capable of shifting my focus away from all the bad things and seeing the good in people that shines out from within their inner turmoil?


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