Jesus loved to dine with people as we hear in many of the gospel stories. Many of his most effective preaching and teaching was accomplished during a meal, dining with others. Sharing a meal was an intimate personal activity. When you shared table with another you shared yourself. In Jesus time they did not have impersonal eating experiences like we have today – rushed meals at home, eating alone or in a fast food restaurant amid strangers, filled with noisy distracting music playing in the background.
No, meals during the time of Jesus were important occasions. Men of equal status would come together, invited by a host, to talk, discuss and share with one another. Specific customs of hospitality were observed and when guests were not treated well by their host, they usually left insulted.
In today’s gospel story Jesus is invited to share a meal with Simon, a Pharisee. We are not told why Simon invited Jesus to this meal, but he certainly did not offer Jesus the common custom of greeting: - a kiss of welcome, - water to cleanse his feet and - oil to anoint his head. Failing to receive these courtesies, Jesus sees the insult, doesn’t leave - he sits down to eat.
Whatever Simon’s intentions were in inviting Jesus without showing him common courtesy was it -
· Simon’s indifference to Jesus as a prophet,
· his lack of belief in Jesus’ message or
· his disdain for Jesus as not being the messenger Simon and the other Pharisees wanted –
Jesus has another lesson in mind to teach.
Now, these meals were for men only. No women or children were allowed in the room except widows, who served the meals. Diners reclined, on their side, at table in the Greek fashion, with their head near the table and their feet away. It was in this manner that the woman, who may have been a widow, was able to enter the room and stand behind Jesus, near his feet.
The woman recognizing Jesus as the Messiah:
· In her sorrow, begins to weep; using her tears to wash Jesus’ feet, drying them with her hair.
· In her shame, the woman kisses Jesus’ feet - not his face.
· In her humility, the woman anoints Jesus’ feet with fragrant oil, not daring to touch His head.
This woman, in her lowliness, lays all her sins at the feet of Jesus. She opens her heart to Him: baring her inner most self; seeking forgiveness, healing and reconciliation with God through Jesus.
Simon, not recognizing Jesus as the Messiah and already failing to show him proper respect and courtesy, now begins to questions if Jesus truly is a prophet or even a good Jew, as is he. Simon knows the woman to be a public sinner, whose touch would render a good Jew unclean. He would never let her touch him in any way, let alone kiss him, wash his feet or anoint him.
Jesus knows the heart of Simon and challenges him with a parable concerning forgiveness. Who should have the greater gratitude for the forgiveness of a debt, one who is forgiven a small debt or a large debt? Simon answers wisely.
Then Jesus challenges Simon again. He asks him, “Simon, do you see this woman?” Jesus doesn’t say, “Simon, do you see this sinner.” In this, Jesus gives the woman:
· her humanity,
· her personhood,
· her identity as an equal in the eyes of God
What social constructs have taken away from the woman, Jesus returns to her. He not only forgives her - her sins, but returns her to her proper place among the beloved children of God.
Jesus too challenges each of us to see others – as children of God, not by their labels or reputations.
· Do we see others as beloved children of God, brothers and sister to us, in Christ?
· Do we diminish others with names or ideas that take away their dignity as humans?
· Do we trap people into their pasts or do we give them a future – do we forgive them their “trespasses as we ask forgiveness of our own”?
By inviting Jesus to share in a meal with him, Simon received much more than he expected. Dining with Jesus becomes a sharing of oneself with Him. It is a way of coming into fellowship with the Christ. Jesus brings sinners a true understanding of their worth before God – He offers sinners peace through the forgiveness of their sins and respect as beloved children of God.
When we share the Body and Blood of Christ, we also come into fellowship with Him and with one another around the Eucharistic Table. Our meal of fellowship with Jesus is always a graced opportunity for change and renewal. Let us be like Him in all things:
· Sharing ourselves with the other,
· Treating the other with dignity and respect,
· Seeing the other as children of God and
· Forgiving the other as we seek forgiveness
Laying our sins at the feet of Jesus – who turns our tears of sorrow into tears of joy – Amen
Deacon Don Ron