Picture this. The night is warm, the room is thick with smoke but redolent with the aroma of wine and rich food. The house swells to the hefty voices of men in conversation, and laughing. There is not a woman to be seen except for the one who invites herself in and moves timidly toward Him reclining at table.
Jesus reads the thoughts of Simon, his host, who is already misjudging his tenderness toward the woman. The calculus of Simon’s legalism and pharisaical rigidity cannot penetrate her motive, cannot comprehend her act of love and confession. Simon recedes into the shadows; he becomes one of ‘them’ obscured in the background by the haze of judgment. But she is drawn by Jesus into posterity, enshrouded by the sacred words he speaks of her action. She is ‘illuminated’ because of her great love. But she remains anonymous because she will become each one of us who at one time or another has sought him out, drawing on a love we may have thought dormant or unworthy.
And what about Simon and his friends? Are we sometimes like them, afraid to open the door and take the hands of those who do not ‘fit’ or who live outside the margins of our righteousness, maybe even our interpretation of ‘right’ practice of the faith? How many are kneeling at the doorsteps of our Church, waiting for us to bring them in, no questions asked, no judgments made, just a welcoming embrace given because they have loved much or they would not be seeking an open door.
—Sr. Mary Ann Flannery, S.C. is Executive Director of Jesuit Retreat House, Cleveland OH.