The Pharisees in today’s Gospel, miss a crucial point: Only the one who recognizes their sin, sincerely repents, and asks forgiveness receives the blessing of being forgiven, and hence, loving more. The Pharisees mistake is that they consider themselves to be blameless, and therefore, they look down on other people whom they consider less worthy of God’s favor. Little do they know, their presumption blinds them to what God sees. Jesus’ parable is meant to enlighten them that they should be more concerned with sincerely loving God than they are with comparing themselves with others.
We often hear it said that Jesus ate with sinners. We should also be reminded that Jesus ate with Pharisees – sinners like the rest of us, but too self-righteous to recognize this to be true. Christ’s mercy does not discriminate. Still, the one thing that can stand as an obstacle to his love and forgiveness is our own ego.
Some people’s egotism takes the form of despair (My sins are too great for God to forgive me); the Pharisee’s egotism takes the form of presumption (I am not a sinner and I’m better than other people).
Christ’s subtle message to the Pharisees dining with him is “Don’t be so sure of yourself when you judge this woman.” First, he points out that she loves more and has greater faith than they do. Then, he stuns them by forgiving all her sins. The sinful woman offers a sincere prayer with her tears, which indicate what is in her heart, while astute and calculating Pharisees offer no sign of what their heart holds besides their uncomfortable silence and judgmental glares. Because their hearts are hard and cold, they cannot receive the consolation of Christ’s words of forgiveness.
One important lesson from today’s Gospel is that we should not compare ourselves with others. In God’s eyes we are all his creatures, we are all fallen from grace, and we all need his mercy. Focus rather on your personal relationship with God.
And before we judge other people we should first make sure the plank is removed from our own eye.
Jesus does know that the woman who weeps before him is a sinner. He also knows her heart. If we want to be more like him and imitate him more perfectly, we should try to see people the way he sees them and attend to the sinful people in our lives with compassion, mercy, and understanding.
Of course, this does not necessarily mean that we should tolerate bad sins – love the sinner, hate the sin, like Jesus did.