11th Sunday in Ordinary Time C

Do you think that God keeps score?  I want to get back to that question.  But first, let’s get into this Gospel which I must admit is a little uncomfortable for me.  It might be the public display of affection for Jesus or the woman’s outlandish and very physical encounter with Christ, anointing his feet and wiping his feet with her hair.  All of that seems pretty discomforting especially given that it is being done to the Lord.  Besides, if you were giving a dinner party, who would want that scene to break out?

But that is not what is disquieting to the Pharisee who has invited Jesus over for dinner.  He is disturbed that Jesus allows himself to be touched by a sinful woman.  He can only conclude that if Jesus were really a prophet he would know better; a true Rabbi would not allow himself to be in this position.  Of course, Jesus knows exactly who this woman is and how sinful she has been.  It is the reason he allows it.  He can sense her need for change, for conversion and he will not deprive her of a moment that is full of grace.

You see the encounter of the sinful woman and Jesus is the encounter between great need and greater mercy.  Her past has given her a hunger to be restored, made whole and holy.  In light of all that Jesus is and offers, she cannot contain herself like a thirsting woman coming to a fresh oasis, she needs to drink in all that she can.  This is the essence of our relationship with Christ – to allow our need to be met by his mercy.   Every encounter with Christ should be like the sinful woman’s encounter – love and gratefulness with abandon.

I asked at the beginning, does God keep score.  Perhaps God does, but not in the way we expect.  We imagine God carefully taking note of our behavior – you were bad on Tuesday, good on Thursday and a disaster on Friday.  That is not how God keep score.  Yet, Christ does contrast the over the top greeting of the sinful woman with the cold greeting of his host who neglects the social rules of the time – neglecting to offer Jesus a drink or water to wash his feet from the pounding of those hard, dusty roads.  If God is keeping track, it is only of the question of who has loved the most.

To be honest, sometimes I love God more like the Pharisee than the sinful woman.  I want the relationship on my turf and on my terms.  I carefully select what I want to share or need forgiveness for.  I ask for what I need this day, for what I expect and what I want.  That is a lot of “I” in my prayer.  St. Paul said in the second reading it.  “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.”  I must make space for God by making less allowance for me.

If we were really praying as we should, we would all pray like the forgiven woman.  Fully aware of our need, thirsting for mercy and overwhelmed by the love Christ offers us.  But my problem is I usually pray on my porch facing Union Street and I am not sure that my writhing on the ground in ecstasy is really good for the parish. It might cause accidents and I would feel badly because they have done such a great job working on the road. So I have started to do this instead.  I try toward the end of my prayer to empty my mind of my stuff –whatever I need or expect and simply ask the Lord to fill me up. Fill me with the light you want me to have for that will dispel any darkness that I face.  Fill me with the grace you want for me, for that will ensure that your will and not mine is done.  Fill me with your love, and I can bring all the people I meet that day to your beauty.  Christ fill me in such a way that those who see me really see you.  Lord Jesus, fil me.