1Cor 15:1-11; Ps118:1-2,16,17,28; Lk 7:36-50
Often we find that the Psalmist can’t say it enough, indeed we cannot proclaim it adequately, “His mercy endures forever.” The LORD God Almighty is good beyond words and his mercy endures forever. The house of Israel could not get over it. Indeed, the LORD had shown the house of Israel such tender mercies. Again and again, they received the mercy of the LORD. He would draw them back from idolatry and exile with bands of human affection and through the preaching of the prophets, yet again they would rebel against the LORD. As a prayer from the Eastern Church says, “Great are your works, which are treasured by all. For you remove guilt and pardon sins, without persisting in anger, only delighting in mercy.” No matter how far we wander, no matter how long we stay away, we shall not die in his wrath; we shall live and declare the gracious kindness of the LORD. We give thanks to the LORD; again we extol the LORD. Saint Paul was painfully aware of his unworthiness, yet he was even more aware of the mercy and grace of Christ to him which was not ineffective. The Lord Jesus did know what sort of woman it was who showed him more hospitality than a certain Pharisee, Simon by name, who had invited him to dine. Christ is at the table with us again and we give thanks that he continues to show great love by forgiving much.
The first and most important thing that Saint Paul handed on to his beloved spiritual children was, “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.” This was the first and most important thing all of us needed to know; such knowledge is the first movement of true repentance. Sorrow for sins is imperfect as long as it is mixed with fear of punishment. When we are filled with compunction, then we are sorry for our sins because they have offended the holiness of the All Holy God, the Father Almighty. Since we are seldom in touch with such a profound and selfless contrition, we trust in the Lord Jesus to show us his mercy even if our contrition is not perfect. Indeed, if we desire, to desire, to be sorry we are absolved. The mustard seed of faith enables such a movement of repentance. Saint Paul shares with his spiritual children just how profound his repentance and his reception of New Life in the power of the cross and resurrection. Indeed, the sin and hatred of the whole human family could not defeat the goodness and mercy of God in Christ. He rose again in glory, never to die again; he rose and appeared to the early believers. Saint Paul is one of the privileged disciples, indeed he is an Apostle because he saw the Risen Lord Jesus. This profound witness of faith in Saint Paul’s writings is expressed in sincere humility. He calls himself the least of the Apostles, “not fit to be called an Apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God.” It is sheer grace that he is, an Apostle; it is sheer grace that he is what he is, an Apostle. We, too, share such awe and wonder at the grace of God for us, in Christ Jesus and in the Holy Spirit, who makes us one with the Father, from age to age and forever and forever. So the Apostle preaches and so we have believed.
The repentant woman was weeping enough to bathe his feet with her tears. She loved, more than the Pharisee, because she had been forgiven much. However, the Pharisee was hard of heart and hesitant with his hospitality. The woman wept a flood of tears, and Jesus wept inside because his host was not moved to pity. Why would a Pharisee invite the Lord to dine? Perhaps, like Nicodemus he was seeking the truth in the darkness of his world. Perhaps, like his other brothers, in the party of the Pharisees, he was trying to catch Jesus in some offence against the Law of Moses. Simon, the Pharisee, reveals his motivation when he does not give the Lord Jesus a welcome kiss when he entered his house. He even failed at the most basic acts of hospitality; he did not offer water for the Lord’s feet. Such disregard for hospitality could reveal a preoccupation with catching Jesus in an act of rebellion. Or, perhaps, Simon, the Pharisee, was being too cautious with offering hospitality lest anyone think that he welcomed sinners, or even welcomed the one who ate and drank with sinners. Such caution and politically correct behavior gives us a glimpse of his mixed motives. Simon may have been silenced by the challenge of his conversation with the Lord Jesus, but everyone else at table said to themselves, “Who do you think you are Jesus? Who are you to forgive sins?” Even this self-appointed tribunal did not silence the Lord Jesus, who proclaims what every sinner longs to hear. The very words that have been included in the ritual for the sacrament of reconciliation, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”