Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator
Reading and praying with the Scriptures can trip us up and expose our inner prejudices. Today's passage from the Gospel of St. Luke provides us with such an example. The story we hear today is about the "sinful woman" who bathes Jesus' feet with her tears, dries them with her hair and then anoints them with perfumed oil. In the course of the evangelist's description of the episode, the Pharisees doubt that Jesus is a prophet since he doesn't seem to know what sort of woman she is. By this time, most readers, including me, have come to the conclusion that the woman must be a prostitute. All the text tells us is that she is a sinful woman.
Exactly two weeks ago, we read another episode in which Jesus called his disciples after they caught a boat load and then some of fish. Peter prostrates himself before Jesus and asks him to leave because he is a sinful man. The same words are used in the text to describe both Peter and the woman. They are sinners. Yet how many of us came away from the episode of the call of Peter thinking that he was the counterpart of the woman who bathed the feet of Jesus? We cannot claim that the text is what leads us to this conclusion since the text identifies both characters in the same language. If you have labeled the woman as a prostitute, and many have done so, it is because of our own prejudices when it comes to gender as it relates to sin.
The fact of the matter is that both Peter and the woman are in exactly the same boat; they are sinful human beings in the presence of the sinless One who has come to save us from our sins. Comparisons when it comes to sin are odious indeed. In fact, the argument could be made that the sin of rash judgment of others sheds a very harsh light on us. "Judge not, lest you be judged." "Forgive us our sins as we forgive. . ." God help us if we get that for which we pray!