Let nobody despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I arrive, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhorting, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders. Put these things into practice, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.
His works are justice and truth:
his precepts are all of them sure,
standing firm for ever and ever:
they are made in uprightness and truth. (R./)
He has sent deliverance to his people
and established his covenant for ever.
Holy his name, to be feared. (R./)
To fear the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all who do so prove themselves wise.
His praise shall last for ever! (R./)
One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him--that she is a sinner."Jesus spoke up and said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." "Teacher," he replied, "Speak."
"A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?" Simon answered, "I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt." And Jesus said to him, "You have judged rightly." Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little." Then he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" And he said to the woman, "our faith has saved you; go in peace."
Paul reflects on the qualities needed in church leaders. He encourages young Timothy, who felt so diffident in offering guidance to others. His advice is a classic of avuncular inspiration. He assures the younger man of his genuine talents, appreciates his high ideals, and assures him of his ability to teach and preach and lead the community in prayer.
Luke shows how Jesus could be stern with the proud, but protective towards the humble who repent. In the parable we see God's generous initiative in loving and forgiving. In this provocative story, the person with the heavier load of sin seems to be loved more by God than the one with lesser sins. This can seem unjust, until we remember that pride is a worse sin than sexual excess. But surely there is hope for the proud person also, if the woman can be forgiven this easily. All authority of the church is under the ideals of the Gospel, with encouragement and esteem for the young, with concern for the repentant, but reminding the proud and self-righteous of the centrality of God's love.
We would not intrude on a meal unless we are invited. Yet the woman in today's gospel intrudes without invitation. She did so because she wanted to come near Jesus and show him a service of hospitality and love. This invited guest showed Jesus the hospitality that his host should have but failed to show him. She honoured Jesus in an extravagant way in return for what she had already received from him. She had felt God's forgiving love through Jesus, and such was her gratitude for this gift of love that she wanted to offer love in return.
The woman is an example to all followers of Jesus. Like her, we have received great graces and "from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace." Like her, this sense of having been abundantly gifted with grace moves us to do something in return. We are inspired to serve him as he has served us. The woman in the house of the Pharisee shows us how to receive from the Lord and how to love him in return.