The Gospel reading today is a beautiful and telling story about God’s mercy and forgiveness of sinners. The contrast between the humble and loving acts of the woman publicly known as a sinner and the almost cavalier and careless hospitality of the Pharisee for his guest. Jesus reminds us of a similar parable about the Pharisee and the tax-collector at prayer in the Temple (Lk 18: 9 – 14)
The woman does not speak; she does not even ask for forgiveness. Her humble yet generous gestures of respect for our Lord speak for her: tears to cleanse Jesus’ feet and her hair to dry them, kisses and costly perfume for Jesus’ feet. Her actions were her quiet and subtle repentance and promise of reform. She was like the tax-collector at the Temple, “standing far off,” “not even lifting his eyes to heaven,” “beating his breast saying, “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
The Pharisee who had invited Jesus did not have the courtesy to offer him the traditional and customary welcome: water for his feet and welcome kiss. Simon was like the self-assured Pharisee in the parable of the two men in the Temple: “I thank you, God, that I am not like other people, grasping, crooked, adulterous, or even like this tax-collector.” Being that he could really wonder, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what sort of person is touching him; isn’t this woman a sinner?”
Jesus’ understanding and appreciation of sinners showed God’s endless mercy: “I tell you, her many sins are forgiven, because of her great love.”
“Your sins are forgiven: Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
This is what happens when we approach God for forgiveness for our sins. This is what happens when we are re-united to God and his Church in the Sacrament of Penance.