One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house, and took his place at table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “What is it, Teacher?” “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he forgave them both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, to whom he forgave more.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house, you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss 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 are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:36-50)
Sin is misdirected love. Sinning a lot reveals the potential to love greatly if only the direction of that love is ordered again towards God, who is the source, the One who gave the sinner the capacity to love so much. The woman in the story, perhaps a prostitute by trade, was well known for her practice. It is quite likely that those who knew her, including Simon, may have made use of her services.
Simon thought of her but uttered not a word. Jesus however, was reading Simon’s heart and also the woman’s. Jesus was, we would say today, in “perfect knowledge” of the situation. The woman cried inclined on Jesus’ feet. Why? Because her eyes had recognized in Jesus a perfection, a love that no one had ever offered her.
You see, her capacity to love was great. She was ready for a great love story, she had a huge heart that took perhaps great blows from men who did not love her right. In time, she got used to that sad and grave injustice and her love was gradually misdirected to the very sinful disorder that made her infamous about town.
I imagine that Jesus was invited to the house of the Pharisee after preaching in that town. The woman was just one more face in the crowd surrounding the famous new Rabbi. She was perhaps standing there when her eyes caught Jesus’ gaze. That was the trademark of her profession, to catch the eye of her potential client and enter into that exchange that tried to emulate the look of pure love between man and lawful wife. A devilish simulation it was, a dirty make believe trying to mimic the spousal: “I know you love me, please know I desire you,” that in reality said: “I know what you want, and I have it here for a price.” In the mud of human concupiscence such are the imprints of the devil’s hoofs. That exchange is nothing but a dirty mockery of the beautiful dance leading to spousal union. In all the godless simulations of marriage now en vogue one will always find traces of that abomination, the difference among them is only a matter of degree.
But that day, when she found His eyes, those eyes entered deep into her soul and she felt not the animal hunger of an aroused male but a soft caress that made her hear something different: “What have they done to you? What have you done to yourself?” There was no scandal, no shaming, only a kindness of such depth that made her want to be lost in it forever, trusting in it, feeding from it for dear life. In contact with such level of pure love, she felt suddenly saddled with all her past and then she felt the forgiveness coming into her heart like a river of mercy. And then she ran to her home and cried her fill on that bed … that bed.
Later on, when she learned that Jesus was going to be at Simon’s house, she placed herself behind the men, as it was proper for lowly women to do. There she patiently waited until the last man was received, sneaking silently into the house and moving towards the place where Jesus was. That was the beginning of her following Jesus. From that moment on, she would never be too far from Him.
On the day of St. Januarius