Summary: God's grace is much bigger than we will ever understand, and God's love reaches out to the very ends of the earth. That includes people and nations that we have written off. God has not written them off.
A certain young woman was nervous about meeting her boyfriend's parents for the first time. As she checked her appearance one last time, she noticed that her shoes looked dingy, so she gave them a fast swipe with the paper towel she had used to blot the bacon she had for breakfast. When she arrived at the impressive home, she was greeted by the parents and their much-beloved, but rotten-tempered poodle. The dog got a whiff of the bacon grease on the young woman's shoes and followed her around all evening. At the end of the evening, the pleased parents remarked, "Cleo really likes you, dear, and she is an excellent judge of character. We are delighted to welcome you into our little family."
There is an interesting comparison that can be drawn between this story and the story of the weeping woman that we heard in our Gospel reading this morning. Both sought acceptance-the young woman from her boyfriend's parents, and the weeping woman from both Jesus and the society of that time. The Pharisees saw the weeping woman only for what she was to them on the outside-a woman of ill repute. On the other hand, Jesus saw her as a repentant sinner who had hope and faith in Him.
Simon was offended by the woman's behaviour at the dinner table. In those days, women did not eat in the same room as the men, and they certainly did not let their hair down. Simon did not see Jesus as a prophet because Jesus did not profess to know the woman's heart. Jesus proved that He was indeed a prophet because he knew what was in Simon's heart. In Christ's time, women were often regarded by society as outcasts or oppressed. They were not invited to banquets; however, outsiders could hover around during banquets, hear conversations and speak to the guest of honour. Christ calls us to attend to the hungry, the poor, the oppressed and the outcast in society because of His love and compassion. He also issues this call because He is the "shadow person"-the uninvited poor person who shows up unexpectedly at our tables, our churches and in society.
The Pharisees kept the word of the law to a T. They made sure that every I was dotted and every T was crossed. They took a literal view of the law and their society-much like fundamentalist, Bible-thumping preachers take a literal view of the Bible today. In the time of the Pharisees, a guest in their home was treated with respect, dignity and hospitality. Simon the Pharisee broke this tradition when he refused to welcome Jesus with a kiss or wash his feet. By not showing the proper hospitality, Simon in effect snubbed Jesus and his teachings. Sinfulness is more than deeds. It also involves our inner attitudes, desires, motivations, and so on. Simon is a good example. He can learn about the depth of God's forgiveness and the powerful effects through the experience of the woman.
The story of the weeping woman appears in all four Gospels. The main objection raised in the other three Gospels was the use of expensive ointment. The objection here in Luke's Gospel is the woman's reputation as a sinner and Jesus' failure in the eyes of the Pharisees to rebuke her behaviour. On the contrary-He knew the sins of both the woman AND Simon the Pharisee. Most people would not see beyond Simon's veil of respectability, but Jesus did. Jesus had the ability to look into the hearts and souls of the people He met with...and He can look into our hearts and souls today. Christ calls us not to be like the Pharisees. We must never call anyone hopeless (including ourselves), but rather to have hope and give hope.
The Pharisees thought they were "holier than thou". Today, many followers of Jesus have switched to the mentality of the Pharisees. They believe only persons of the highest quality and most sanctified holiness are welcome at the Lord's Table. The Pharisees believed they had earned the right to associate together to celebrate their status and goodness. If anyone had the right to belong to an exclusive dinner party, they had. Not so, said Jesus. He said that his dinner party is different. So long as we come openly with faith and repentance as did the woman, we are welcome. We are accepted by Him. He wants to include us among his friends. He will forgive us if we are willing to give up our phoniness, to lay it straight, to come clean, admitting our wrongs.
The woman was ready, willing and able to follow Jesus and his teachings, much like the women who followed Jesus in the last verses of this morning's Gospel reading. Her heightened sense of self-effacement was reflected in her willingness to serve Jesus. She put her trust in the forgiveness of Jesus. She believed in Jesus for the forgiveness of her sins and for her ultimate salvation. She was justified by faith, not by following the law. God's goodness was greater than her sins. Nothing is too bad for God to forgive. We can't earn forgiveness by our own deeds. Forgiveness is a gift from God-a gift given out of pure generosity and out of everlasting mercy.