Simon the Pharisee thought to himself, "if this man were a prophet he would know what kind of woman it is who is touching him", and he concluded in his heart that therefore, since he allows her to touch him, he does not know who she is and is not a prophet. However, Jesus demonstrates in the story that he knew much more: he knew that the woman was a great sinner, he knew what Simon was thinking to himself, and he knew what Simon did not know; namely, that the woman had repented of her sins and was shedding tears of gratitude. Simon should have learned from this revelation that indeed Jesus was a prophet or even something greater.
Whether Simon the Pharisee learnt something about Jesus' true identity from the incident, we are not told. However, we are given a great lesson to learn from. Jesus states a principle: the magnitude of our love of God is commensurate to the degree of his forgiveness of our sins. That brings another issue into question: should we therefore sin more in order to be forgiven more and to consequently to increase our love of God? The answer is no, according to the prophet Ezekiel. If a righteous man abandons his righteousness and becomes wicked at the moment of death, all the righteous deeds of his past will be forgiven and he will die for his sins. So what should we do?
The answer is in examining what scale we use to measure holiness in our minds. There is the wrong scale and the right scale of measuring sanctity. The wrong scale is to compare ourselves with those who are worse than us. This was the prayer of the Pharisee who went with a Publican to pray. It is like a child in a poor school of poor students who thinks is doing very well by considering how many students he is better than, and not the requisite marks according to national standards. Each time we slander another person, each time we relish talking about another person's mistakes, we are applying this principle, and this is done often enough. The right way is that which Jesus has given us: "be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect", "I am the way, the truth and the life...", "I am the light of the world, whoever follows me does not walk in darkness but has the light of life...". The right scale is striving daily to be like Jesus; to do whatever he commands us, and to imitate him. Against this measure we all need to be forgiven much, because we fall far short, and in fact we cannot attain much without constantly asking for Christ's assistance.
Thursday, 24th Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
18th September 2014