Memorial of Saint Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church

Lectionary: 455

Even if this should seem impossible
in the eyes of the remnant of this people,
shall it in those days be impossible in my eyes also,
says the LORD of hosts?
Thus says the LORD of hosts:
Lo, I will rescue my people from the land of the rising sun,
and from the land of the setting sun.
I will bring them back to dwell within Jerusalem.
They shall be my people, and I will be their God,
with faithfulness and justice.

“God manifests himself in historical revelation, in history. Time initiates processes, and space crystallises them. God is in history, in the processes.
“We must not focus on occupying the spaces where power is exercised, but rather on starting long-run historical processes. We must initiate processes rather than occupy spaces. God manifests himself in time and is present in the processes of history. This gives priority to actions that give birth to new historical dynamics. And it requires patience, waiting.
A Big Heart Open to God, Pope Francis
Our Holy Father speaks of the endless possibilities of the future, and of how God reveals himself in historical revelation. 
I thought I knew the future at one time. I had read the Documents of Vatican II and interpreted them in my fashion and I knew where the Church was going. I knew what we had to do. 
But one day I realized my future had passed and it wasn't what I expected. It's called "determinism." The Communists thought they knew the future, as did the Nazi and the Fascists. Feminists, Gays and liberals in general think they know the future. Conservatives, on the other hand, also know the future but they fear it and fight to keep it from happening. 
But no one knows the future. Some people thought they saw the coming Great Recession of 2008 but they were ignored. They sounded the retreat and no one listened. No one in the Church saw the collapse of the Sacrament of Penance or the shortage of priests or the Scandal. We happily ignored all the omens and blundered into the mess. 

We are a people of faith, as the Holy Father teaches, especially as he cites the Letter to the Hebrews 11:
Abraham leaves his home without knowing where he was going, by faith. All of our ancestors in the faith died seeing the good that was promised, but from a distance.... Our life is not given to us like an opera libretto, in which all is written down; but it means going, walking, doing, searching, seeing.... We must enter into the adventure of the quest for meeting God; we must let God search and encounter us.
In today's reading from the Prophet Zechariah the Lord assured his people they would return to Jerusalem. It didn't seem possible at the time. It was almost too much to hope for. 

Many Catholics today despair of the Church's future. They don't like what it has become; they quit attending. Like some of the Jews in the Sinai, they fall behind and are lost in the desert. 

God is always a surprise, so you never know where and how you will find him. You are not setting the time and place of the encounter with him. You must, therefore, discern the encounter. 
We pray, we gather around the altar, we trust in God, we discern where the Spirit leads.

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 138

Thus says the LORD the God of hosts:
Woe to the complacent in Zion! 
Lying upon beds of ivory, 
stretched comfortably on their couches, 
they eat lambs taken from the flock, 
and calves from the stall! 
Improvising to the music of the harp, like David, they devise their own accompaniment. They drink wine from bowls and anoint themselves with the best oils; yet they are not made ill by the collapse of Joseph! 
Therefore, now they shall be the first to go into exile, and their wanton revelry shall be done away with.

It's not as if we didn't see what began in the 1980's: the corporate take-overs, the soup kitchens, and the attacks upon labor unions. We saw it but ignored it. The economy was good for a lot of people. Even Hollywood saw what was happening. The movie Wall Street and its anti-hero, Gordon Gekko, announced, "Greed is good." People agreed. What was the harm of greed? 

Since the 1980's, Catholics and many Christians protest against abortion but cannot agree on the bigger picture. We do not dare to renounce the consumer's credo, "If I can afford it, I should be free to buy it." You can buy guns and drugs and pornography You can "shop till you drop."  But you cannot have abortion? As if the consumer would agree to that one limit on her freedom. 

We impose no limits on how much money a person can amass;  and no constraints on what he can buy. The individual -- Gordon Gekko -- can have anything he can take, regardless of the needs, hopes, ambitions or dignity of others. The law becomes only a veneer of respectability for cancerous greed. 

Pictures from the Picnic

The Prophet Amos saw the devastation of greed nine hundred years before Jesus was born. Jesus watched the wealthy drop a pittance into the temple treasury and despised them. 

His story of Lazarus and the rich man is rich with irony. The man who had everything now begs for a drop of water on his tongue. He goes so far as to ask Abraham to send that boy into the fiery abyss to relieve my suffering. He has already forgotten the chasm that he set between the wealthy and the poor, and that he made it impassible. No one can cross from one side to the other. The poor are locked into destitution; the wealthy hoard their privileges. 

Realizing his helplessness he dares to blame God for his plight. "I wasn't warned!" he implies as he begs Abraham to send Lazarus to his brothers. Abraham reminds him, "You had Moses and the prophets, but you would not listen to them. Nor would you listen if someone rises from the dead!" 

David speaks to us in the 49th psalm, of the futility of wealth:
Why should I fear in evil days, with the iniquity of my assailants surrounding me, of those who trust in their wealth and boast of their abundant riches?
No man can ransom even a brother, or pay to God his own ransom.
The redemption of his soul is costly; and he will pass away forever. He is like the beast —they perish.
Wealth is the Great Lie. It promises but cannot deliver. We are doomed to death from the day of our birth. Wealth may lengthen our life but only marginally; we'll be dead a long time longer than we ever lived. 

Wealth promises to make our brief life easier. The psalmist complained, "Their bodies are sound and sleek." but then he remembered God's justice:
You set them, indeed, on a slippery road; you hurl them down to ruin. How suddenly they are devastated; utterly undone by disaster! They are like a dream after waking, Lord, dismissed like shadows when you arise.

Pictures from the Picnic

Our Holy Father Pope Francis has stunned the world by protesting against the worsening plight of the poor. He has done so using one of the oldest methods of all, living simply. We can do the same, and perhaps, by doing so, avoid the curse that must fall on the rich. As the original Francis said, "While we have time, let us do good."

Saturday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 454

Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion!
See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the LORD.
Many nations shall join themselves to the LORD on that day,
and they shall be his people and he will dwell among you.

“This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity. And the church is Mother; the church is fruitful. It must be.  (Pope Francis, Interviews published Sept 19, 2013)

I was ordained in Carey Ohio, in the National Basilica of Our Lady of Consolation. People come there to find healing, comfort and reassurance from Ohio; from the border states of Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and New York; more distant states like Illinois and Wisconsin; and from Ontario, Canada. They speak many languages and, to my narrow mid-western mind, practice many unusual religious customs. All are welcome. After thirteen years in the seminary I was ready to experience a wide-open Church and I found it there. 

I also found Franciscan friars who were eager to serve the shrine and its pilgrims in whatever way we could. At all hours of the day and night we blessed everything from water to animals to farm machinery. One woman urgently begged me to bless her thirteen year old daughter who had not yet found a husband. 

The day after I was ordained Sister Cecilia told me to go hear the confessions of some Lebanese pilgrims. 
"Sister, I don't speak Lebanese." 
"Neither does anyone else here. Go do it."
So my first confessions as a priest were in Lebanese. 

Hearing the Pope remind us the church should be a universal mother reminds me of those halcyon days in Carey. The doors were always open; the statue was unprotected, and the people were blessed. We didn't check their blue cards or their drivers licences. We didn't require them to speak English. We didn't even ask them to vote Republican or Democrat. We offered freely the Sacrament of Penance to everyone who asked, but didn't require it for those who wanted to receive the Eucharist. Nor did we ask if they practiced birth control or had ever had an abortion. 

Occasionally our hospitality was abused. The statue of Our Lady was stolen a couple of times (by local boys). She always turned up somewhere, usually within a few blocks. Her bejeweled crown was missing so we fashioned another one. Sometimes the church cleaning crew found a wafer on the floor or in a pew. Why it was there no one could guess, but we assumed it was consecrated and disposed of it reverently. 

During the big feast of the Assumption of Mary (August 15) hundreds of people slept in the pews of the upper, lower and original shrine churches. Naked toddlers sometimes wandered the aisles during the early morning masses. One little girl, fascinated by the altar and the priest, stood there tinkling on the floor. Her mother was probably sound asleep in one of the pews. Those were glorious days. 

I've not been there for the major feast in several years but I would not be surprised to hear stories like mine continue to mount up. It's an experience every newly-ordained priest should have, lest he think his culture is the only one in the Church, and his reverence is the only way to show it. 

The Holy Father has rebuked us from his own marvelous Italian/Argentinian experience. He has reminded us not every Catholic has to agree with everything about the Church and its teachings. We are gathered by the Holy Spirit and no one can say why she is in the Church or why someone else should not be. That call is God's. The Lord is God. 

Memorial of Saint Vincent de Paul, Priest
Lectionary: 453

This is the pact that I made with you
when you came out of Egypt,
And my spirit continues in your midst;
do not fear!
For thus says the LORD of hosts:
One moment yet, a little while,
and I will shake the heavens and the earth,
the sea and the dry land.
I will shake all the nations,
and the treasures of all the nations will come in,
And I will fill this house with glory,
says the LORD of hosts.

Lovers of Handel's Messiah will recognize Haggai's prophesy, taken from his spiritual ancestor Isaiah and given new meaning by the Letter to the Hebrews:
I will shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all the nations,
As the impoverished Jews gazed upon the pathetic little temple they had built and remembered the splendid Temple of Solomon Haggai added another layer of meaning: 
and the treasures of all the nations will come in,
What is going on
in that little mind? 
Saint Matthew, in his turn, recalled Haggai's treasures of all nations: the magi presented gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh as they worshiped the Lord of Heaven and Earth, who was cradled in the arms of Mary -- she who is the New Temple and the New Jerusalem. 

In the ruins of Jerusalem and the arms of Poverty the Eye of Faith sees the Glory of God and the Wealth of Nations. What is best off all: no one can steal this Treasure from us! 
And in this place I will give you peace, says the LORD of hosts!
As we celebrate Saint Vincent de Paul and the good work his Society still does for the poor, we thank God he has taught us where to find true wealth. We also thank God for Pope Francis who insists that we reorder our values, customs and institutions to care for the needy. 

Thursday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 452
a fly on the mirror

This people says:
“The time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD.”

(Then this word of the LORD came through Haggai, the prophet:) 
Is it time for you to dwell in your own paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now thus says the LORD of hosts: 
Consider your ways! You have sown much, but have brought in little; you have eaten, but have not been satisfied...

As much as Christians might complain about our irreligious, secular age, we cannot suppose the habit of ignoring God began recently. The Hebrew prophets complained continually about it. There is something about God's providential mercy that seems to invite being taken for granted. Atheism, not doubt, is the flip side of faith. 

Even when the Lord hangs on a cross to save us from ourselves we find other things more interesting, more tragic or more entertaining. We are especially concerned about our immediate comfort and security, as this passage from Haggai demonstrates. 

The people who have returned to Jerusalem after an exile of seventy years want first to build and accessorize their own homes (with paneled walls!) and then to rebuild God's house. Perhaps they still hold God to blame for the ruin they suffered. Perhaps they are more grateful to the emperor than to the Lord. Most likely, they fear their vulnerability and a revisit of tragedy. They would protect themselves first, then address the One who protects them. Religion seems to them a pleasant pastime, a hobby for spiritual persons, not a vital concern.

How do we convince our loved ones and neighbors and fellow citizens that keeping faith with God is more important than life itself? 

I suppose we have to live as if it were. Arguing certainly won't help. Preaching jeremiads doesn't move anyone. Each day we thank God with a cheerful heart for the opportunities that lie before us. Each day we ask God to show us the dangers before we step into them. Each day, because no one will give us the time, we make time for prayer.

We ask God to give us a share of that free Spirit that drove the martyrs to witness their faith in God. 

Wednesday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 451

“And now, but a short time ago, mercy came to us from the LORD, our God,
who left us a remnant and gave us a stake in his holy place; thus our God has brightened our eyes and given us relief in our servitude.
For slaves we are, but in our servitude  our God has not abandoned us;
rather, he has turned the good will
of the kings of Persia toward us.
Thus he has given us new life….

The scriptures today are rich with good news. The first reading from the Book of Ezra celebrates the permission the Emperor has granted to the Jews to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. Ezra sees the hand of God in the empyreal decree; the Lord has forgiven the sins of his people. After long years of suffering, poverty and exile the Lord has seen fit to restore them to their homeland.

The world has seen thousands of cities and as many religions vanish from the earth, taking their peculiar religions with them. But our God does not disappear into history and his people keep faith with him. With the emperor’s permission, the priest Ezra and the emperor’s governor Nehemiah re-founded the Jewish religion in the city and its temple. Jews in Africa, Asia and Europe would hear the good news and return to the city on pilgrimage, as they have to this day.

In today’s gospel, Jesus sends his disciples throughout Judea on those same pilgrim roads to announce the Kingdom of God. They go before him as he approaches the Holy City. Eventually, after his crucifixion and resurrection, he will send them from Jerusalem into the whole world.

The prayer of Ezra celebrates an enormous sense of relief; God has forgiven our sins. He is sure of that as he reads the emperor’s decree. 

Item for the Silent Auction
at the MSF Picnic
We know it from our sacraments, especially of Baptism, Penance and Eucharist. In fact all of our sacraments give us enormous assurance of forgiveness. They “effect what they signify.” The troubled man who believes his wife’s reassurances knows the mercy of God. The ailing patient who receives the Anointing of the Sick feels forgiveness by the priest’s touching the crown of her head, her forehead and hands.

The Lord sends us into the farthest corners of the earth and the deepest recesses of our hearts to announce, “He has given us new life.”

Tuesday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 450

He said to them in reply, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.”

Catholics are fascinated by the Blessed Virgin Mary; our ears perk up whenever she appears in the gospels. In this story, adapted from Saint Mark’s Gospel, she appears among his family, seeking an audience with him.

Saint Mark describes Jesus as a solitary prophet. He will be abandoned by everyone including government officials, religious authorities, his family and disciples. Even the Lord God will remain silent, distant and aloof as he dies on the cross. Saint Mark did not intend to dismiss or censure Jesus’ mother in his gospel. She may have been still alive when he wrote the gospel; she had not yet become an object of Christian devotion.

A raffle prize
at the picnic
Saint Luke paints a more sanguine image of Jesus’ world. Although he was condemned and crucified by authorities, many people remained faithful to him, including Simon of Cyrene, the women of Jerusalem and “the good thief.” After he died Joseph of Arimathea provided a tomb and the women prepared his body for burial. Even Jesus’ disciples fare better in Luke’s gospel. He does not say they fled from Gethsemane when Jesus was arrested; in fact they were ready to defend him with swords.

Mary and Jesus’ family appear in this story, as they do later in the Acts of the Apostles, as people who are faithful. They come to join him, not to seize him as Saint Mark indicated. They wish to “hear the word of God and act on it.” Although the Baptist is the most important person in the gospels after Jesus, Mary is the first disciple. She received the Good news from the Angel Gabriel and kept it faithfully.

Modern Christians should pay special attention to that second phrase, “act on it.” People today don’t care what we think about Jesus or religion. There are too many opinions and they’re all irrelevant. What matters is what we do. 

Friars Leo and Anthony find
bargains in the Bargain Basement
As soon as Mary heard the good news from the Angel that she would conceive and bear a child, she accepted it. Then she hurried off to Jerusalem when the Angel informed her of Elizabeth's pregnancy. She heard the word and acted upon it. 

Our labor and love, our politics and perspectives, our actions and attitudes must be shaped by the Word of God. 

Memorial of Saint Pius of Pietrelcina, Priest

Lectionary: 449

For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light.
Take care, then, how you hear. To anyone who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away.”

A recent article in the New Yorker Magazine (Sept 16, 2013) reports a new wrinkle in mental illness. While most psychiatrists today generally ignore the fantastic delusions of their patients, preferring to treat their chemical imbalance, some have notice a "Truman Show" phenomenon. 

Some mentally ill people think they are being watched continually by a fascinated television audience. Everywhere they go they spot cameras and hidden microphones. They interact with people around them as if they are "co-stars" of their own reality show. Some hear voices directing them as actors because, like the Manchurian Candidate, microchips have been implanted in their brains. 

When first graders carry cell phone cameras and police are routinely caught on camera subduing hopped-up perpetrators, when cameras overlook highways, intersections and supermarket aisles, when an entire nation watches two men plant pressure cooker bombs and tracks them down within four hours, "Truman" fantasies are not entirely implausible. Someone may be watching you all the time.

Silent Auction
As Jaques said in Shakespeare's As You Like It:
"All the world's a stage,And all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances...

Speaking of Shakespeare, remember the shock and horror of King Claudius in Shakespeare's Hamlet. He saw himself depicted on stage as the murderer of his brother, King Hamlet. He never supposed he might be the subject of a reality show within his own castle. 

"Truman" illusions remind us of Jesus' prophetic remarks. Good will be rewarded and wickedness, punished. It matters not whether any other human sees; the One who judges sees everything. 

The truth is, our sins are always public. Does anyone suppose her prayers should make a difference but her sins should not?  Even the most private deeds have repercussions beyond our reach and far beyond our control. Attitudes formed in the darkness of the movie theater or the privacy of one's home ripple outward into our relations with friends and strangers. Angry moods radiate on highways under the pressure of brake and gas pedals. Wherever we go, we meet ourselves in the responses of others. 

Jesus tells us our Father is watching. He "sees you when you're sleeping and knows when you're awake. He knows if you been bad or good so be good for goodness sake!" 

We hope the Merciful Judge understands our uncertainties and makes right our wrongs. We invoke the guidance of the Holy Spirit in all our decisions and actions. Devout Christians invite the watchful eyes of our Mother Mary and our patron saints. 

Christians want God's watchful care. We want to feel his reassuring, guiding hand on our shoulders as we navigate the world around us. We are grateful even for his occasional word of rebuke. We do not ask God to ignore our sins but to forgive them. 

We suffer no illusions of grandiosity but look forward to that day when all the world will join us in praising our all seeing, all Good God. 

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 135

“A rich man had a steward
who was reported to him for squandering his property.
He summoned him and said,
‘What is this I hear about you?
Prepare a full account of your stewardship,
because you can no longer be my steward.’

Today's gospel should inspire long discussions about public and private responsibility.

In Louisiana I often went to the post office to pick up the mail. It was a good place to catch up on scuttlebutt around town. One day a postal worker whispered to me, "Pray for our post master. We don't know where he is."

Wares at the MSF Picnic
This fellow had been welcomed with some fanfare. The Mayor with several city council members, high mucky-mucks of the postal service, and the fellow's wife and children all turned out for the ceremony. I was asked to lead a prayer and I cited several references to letters and missives in the Bible. Delivering mail has always been a sacred trust. He was personable, able and well-respected. His coming had been a big deal for the small town.

So where was he? He had lost $7000 of post office money in a local casino. Apparently, he was ashamed to come to work. Eventually everyone in town knew of it. When I last heard he was working as a nightwatchman in a warehouse.

"How did he expect to get away with it?" People always ask. How could the steward in today's gospel expect to squander his master's property and not be found out? There may be ways to explain such obtuseness but it really doesn't matter. 
Jesus spells out hard, practical advice in today's gospel.
The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones.

Some people lie because they do not know the truth. They have never met Him. They live in an illusory world of ambitions, schemes, dreams, fears and wishes. They say what they hope is the truth, or what they hope you believe. Sometimes they lose control of their stories as they tell different ones to different people. 

I knew one recovering alcoholic who spoke with wonder of discovering it's easier to speak the truth all the time. That way you don't have to keep track of all your stories, or try to reconcile them when they're found out.  

Christians worship the Truth who has come to live among us. We know of no other way to live. Sometimes the Truth hurts. Sometimes it's agony. But even at its worse, it's better than untruth. So long as we keep our eyes fixed on Christ and him crucified, we walk in the path of Truth. 

Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and evangelist

Lectionary: 643

I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience,
bearing with one another through love,
striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace:

Saint Paul describes himself with a variety of names. To the Romans he is "a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God..."  In other letters he seems to prefer "an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God." 

He was, in fact, often "a prisoner for the Lord." Not an auspicious title. Not what his parents dreamed of when they sent him to Hebrew School. But it fit him well. The man who would worship and adore a crucified messiah should get used to imprisonment and hard times. 

We know little of Saint Matthew but we can suppose he also knew the darker sides of Roman life. As a tax collector he must have been familiar with arguments, cursing, swearing, resentment and hostility. As an Evangelist he treasured the Word of God. 

Preparing for the MSF picnic
We honor Saint Matthew especially for the Gospel of Saint Matthew. It is always placed first among the documents of the New Testament, probably because it gives such mature, considered advice on the operations of the Church. The author is familiar with the conflicts, divisions and feuds that beset enthusiastic people. Carried away by their zeal for the Lord, sometimes "projecting" their own shortcomings onto one another, occasionally demonizing one another, they need sound authority to govern them. 

Especially they must be prepared to forgive one another seventy times seven times -- before breakfast. Matthew's is a gospel of forgiveness and atonement. He gives us the Lord's Prayer (forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us), the immediate explanation, 
If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.
and the brilliant parable of the Unforgiving Servant.  

Preparing for the MSF picnic
Saint Paul and Saint Matthew demonstrate by their lives and in their teaching that the Christian should travel lightly. We cannot afford a lot of baggage, especially of the resentment kind. We might face hostility, suspicion, resentment or jail time -- as Doctor Martin Luther King did -- so we should be prepared to take nothing personally. 

As Mr. Chesterton said, "Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly." 

Memorial of Saints Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, Priest, and Paul Chŏng Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs

Lectionary: 447

From these come envy, rivalry, insults, evil suspicions, and mutual friction among people with corrupted minds, who are deprived of the truth, supposing religion to be a means of gain. Indeed, religion with contentment is a great gain. For we brought nothing into the world....

American Christians are all too familiar with those who suppose "religion to be a means of gain." I distrust any marketers who tell me they are christian just as I avoid anyone who tells me he is honest or generous or humble. 

But apparently a lot of people fall for it since "christian marketing, which began in the 1980's, is still with us. 

How does the Spirit respond to Christian marketing? Saint Paul says, "Religion with contentment is a great gain." We are content with what we have. Sufficiency satisfies. 

What pleases the Christian, besides the practice of our religion, is good relations with our families, friends, neighbors and colleagues. We don't need enemies. We don't create enemies. We pray for those who hate us. We strive to be reconciled with them -- that our joy might be complete

Money is a good thing, too much money is not. 

Strive for peace with everyone, and for that holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one be deprived of the grace of God, that no bitter root spring up and cause trouble, through which many may become defiled... (Hebrews 12:14)

Thursday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 446

So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven;
hence, she has shown great love.
But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”
He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The others at table said to themselves,
“Who is this who even forgives sins?”
But he said to the woman,
“Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

If the friars were to allow an inscription on my headstone (they won’t) I would write, “If you get to be forty years old and haven’t screwed up big time yet, you ain’t even trying.”

I suppose we’d all like to live a perfect life. Or, if not perfect, we’d like to avoid having to apologize, ask for, and accept forgiveness so darned often. We’d like to say to the Lord, “You gave me five talents. Here are ten more!”

At this late date I’d like to say, “The world is no worse for my having been there.” But that might be pressing my luck.

The story of the woman in the Pharisee’s house, abjectly weeping, anointing Jesus’ feet, kissing them and wiping them with her hair is strong medicine. While any one of us might be willing to admit we have sinned, few of us would readily imitate her example. Clearly she is under the influence of strong emotion. Given the ubiquity of strong liquor, illegal drugs and prescription medicines today, we might suppose she is under the influence of some other spirits. That would be excuse enough not to emulate her.

But we cannot make that assumption about this “sinful woman.” Jesus seems to know her. There must have been some prior conversation between them.  

Despite the polite atmosphere of the Pharisee’s house and the dinner, Jesus takes his stand with the woman. When “social pressure” might tell him to make nice to Simon and dismiss the woman, he gently rebukes his host for neglecting the common courtesies – he failed to bathe Jesus’ feet and anoint his head. 

More importantly, he rebukes Simon for his lack of insight. He has not recognized the hour of his visitation.
For the days are coming upon you when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides. They will smash you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another within you because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”

We might also recall Jesus' rebuke of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum:
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And as for you, Capernaum, ‘Will you be exalted to heaven? You will go down to the netherworld.’”

In fact Simon has silently concluded Jesus is not the prophet! He mutters, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.”
This sin against the spirit of prophecy is extremely serious.
“Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.

The Gospel of Saint Luke goes to great lengths to show Jesus as the Prophet who was sent to fill the long empty chair of Moses. Taking his seat at the Right Hand of God, this Prophet sends his disciples to all nations.