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This weekend we celebrate the 11th Sunday of ordinary time and our Gospel Story tells us about the woman with a bad reputation. Having said that we also hear about the attitude of the Pharisees in this gospel or should I say the wrong attitude of the Pharisees. In this Sundays Gospel story Jesus is at the house of a Pharisee, one of those who emphasized love of law rather than the law of love. It was certainly no place for a public sinner to show his or her face. The woman who did show her face was outside the pale, of a group despised by devout Jews. Jesus frequently said that he had come to call sinners, and to befriend them. Not only did Jesus befriend the woman, but he even let her serve him. There was something about him that stirred a profound reverence within her, and she showed that reverence and respect by the anointing with oil, which was the highest expression of reverence one could show to another. Jesus had a ready-made, real, living object lesson right there, and he took full advantage of it. He was aware of the shock and horror among the onlookers, and he used the occasion to drive home a central point of his teaching.

Why did a woman with a bad reputation approach Jesus and anoint him with her tears and costly perfume at the risk of ridicule and abuse by others? The woman’s action was motivated by one thing, and one thing only, namely, her love for Jesus – she loved greatly out of gratitude for the kindness and forgiveness she had received from Jesus. She did something a Jewish woman would never do in public. She loosened her hair and anointed Jesus with her tears. It was customary for a woman on her wedding day to bind her hair. For a married woman to loosen her hair in public was a sign of grave immodesty. This woman was oblivious to all around her, except for Jesus and her gratitude for the mercy he showed towards her. There are two other lessons in this Gospel reading for us. The first lesson is that the pardoned sinner should show gratitude to God. One of the greatest proofs of gratitude is the firm resolution to avoid offending our God. The second lesson is for those amongst us who succeed, thanks to God’s grace, in avoiding serious sins is that we must avoid the sin of the Pharisees. They were, on the whole, devout men and did many a good deed. However, they took all the credit themselves instead of giving God the credit. They grew proud of their good works and despised all others who did not do as they did. The question for us this weekend is who are we like in this particular story are we like the woman who loved Jesus with a heart open to god’s mercy. Or are we like the Pharisees taking all the credit and giving God little or even none at all with our hearts closed to the love and mercy of God.  I would hope that we would be like the woman in the Gospel who wasn’t afraid to show her love for Jesus despite all that was going on around her at the time.



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