11th Sunday O T Year C – 16
2Sam.12:7-10, 13/ Gal.2:16, 19-21/ Lk.7:36-50
A good number of us present here should be going for yearly medical checkups or yearly health screening. The obvious reason is that as we get older, it would be good and necessary for us to maintain our health, or whatever that is left of it.
But as much as it is good for us, and even necessary, we tend to delay it and even try to avoid it. Because we like to think that as long as there is no severe pain and that we can eat and sleep and do everything else in between, then there is nothing really seriously wrong with us.
And our cars seem to get a better treatment. We send our cars for regular servicing, car wash, car polishing, etc. Actually a medical checkup is not that troublesome, nor is it that painful. It just requires a bit of fasting and that is for the blood test.
Well, there is this joke about a boy who went for his first medical checkup. As he was waiting for his turn to see the doctor, he met his classmate, who seemed to be crying and clutching his finger in pain. When he asked what happened, his classmate told him that he just had his blood test.
The doctor took a big needle and poked it into his finger and drew out a lot of blood. And it was so painful. When the boy heard this, his eyes grew big and then he jumped up and ran out. But the nurse caught hold of him and asked him where he was going.
With a frightened voice, the boy said: If the doctor poked the finger for the blood test, then where will he poke for the urine test? Well, pain is real, although some other kinds of pain may just be imaginary.
But painful or otherwise, a blood test and a urine test will show us what is really happening inside of us and also the state of our health. Whatever it is, a test is necessary in order to get some results that will tell us the truth.
Today’s gospel began with Simon the Pharisee inviting Jesus to a meal at his house. Simon the Pharisee had some respect for Jesus as a prophet, so maybe that was why he invited Him. And then when they were at table, a woman with a reputation, came in with an alabaster jar of ointment, and we heard what she did to Jesus.
Simon the Pharisee began thinking. “What’s happening?!?! That woman is touching Jesus like that!!! If Jesus were a prophet, then He should know what kind of woman she is. Jesus cannot be a prophet then. Maybe both of them are the same kind.”
So in the mind of Simon the Pharisee, he had made a judgement on Jesus and on the woman. Just that he was not saying it. But what Simon didn’t know was that he was in the presence of the Divine Doctor who knows what is in the heart of a man.
And Jesus, the Divine Doctor, was about to give Simon a spiritual checkup. Jesus told Simon a parable of two men in debt, one owing a much larger sum than the other. Both of them were unable to pay, but they were pardoned. So which of the two would be more grateful and thankful?
The answer was obvious and Simon got it right. So the test was conducted and the results were out and put before Simon. It was quite clear to Simon that he had judged the woman as well as Jesus. And now, from his own mouth, he had proclaimed a judgement on himself. Can he still deny it?
How Simon reacted or responded to Jesus, we were not told. But reading between the lines of the gospel, comes a lingering question: Are we like Simon the Pharisee? We scrutinize others to see what they are thinking and what they are doing, and yet we don’t examine our own conscience.
In the gospel the Pharisee thinks he is the righteous one who is worthy to be in the company of Jesus and that the woman was the sinful one, unworthy to be seen with Jesus.
In the end Jesus showed each of them where they really belonged and the woman was seen as the one who was righteous and more deserving of the company of Jesus than the self-righteous Pharisee. Why do things like this happen?
Well, because it is easier to hear the other person than it is to hear yourself snoring. It is easy to notice the fault of other people while being blind to our own faults. Great men and women of God have been, all without exception, people who are so aware of their own inadequacies that they are hardly surprised at other people’s shortcomings.
People who delight in criticizing others betray their lack of self-awareness. But what was the mistake of the Pharisee? If the woman was indeed a prostitute where then did he err? After all, what he said about the woman was true, wasn’t it? Of course the woman was a sinner.
Jesus did not say that the woman was not a sinner. Jesus only said that the man was a sinner too, and in fact a worse sinner than the woman.
“I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.
Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love” (Luke 7:44-47).
The problem of the Pharisee was his notion of sin and holiness. For him the woman was an “occasion of sin” to be avoided by godly people. Jesus corrects him: it is not what you avoid that counts, it is what you do.
The Pharisee might indeed have avoided occasions of sin, but he did nothing for Jesus in need. The woman, on the other hand, attended to the practical needs of Jesus. Jesus accepts the woman’s external show of love as a clear manifestation of inner faith: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
This practical engagement is the crucial difference between her and the Pharisee. How do we employ our faith in practical service of the needy? Today’s gospel is good news indeed to all who have been humiliated by the “good people” of this world, humiliated in a supposed concern to maintain the standard of holiness in the household of God.
We seemed to be concerned about what others are doing and the wrong they had done, but we don’t examine ourselves and the wrong that is in us.
But Jesus our Divine Doctor and Healer wants us to go through a spiritual checkup and to be healed of our sinfulness. Jesus wants to forgive all our sins, and heal us with His love, so that we can love God, love others, and love ourselves.
What is the key to forgiveness? Like King David and the woman in the Gospel, it’s taking responsibility for our evil and being sorry for it. We need to see and understand our situation before we can change.
If we’ve observed the law to an extent that we’ve become smug like Simon the Pharisee, we need to recognize that when the Pharisee inside us suppresses the sinner who also lurks there, we need to throw ourselves at the feet of Jesus, wash them with the tears of our responsibility, and beg forgiveness.
Finally, when Jesus says “your sins are forgiven,” he means every bit of it, and we must accept it in faith because: “He is not man that he should lie”. All he wants us to do is live a better life, and to resolve not sin again. “Happy the man whose offences are forgiven.”
Let us ask for this forgiveness and healing, for ourselves, as well as for others. Amen.