The Sinful Woman

Sinful woman
We’ve been reading from the Gospel of Luke most Sundays at Mass this year and for the last few weeks Luke speaks about women in the ministry of Jesus and of his church. Last Sunday there was the story of the widow of Naim, who was bringing her dead son to be buried. Jesus stopped the funeral cortege raised the boy to life and gave him back to his mother.(Luke7.11-17) This week there’s the story of the sinful woman of the town in a Pharisee’s house. Weeping, she pours an ointment over Jesus’ feet along with her tears. Then she dries them with her hair.(Luke 7,36-8,3)

Recall too the story from last Sunday’s Old Testament readings about a widow whose only son had died. Elijah raised her boy to life. (1 Kings 17,17-24)

Are these stories related? I think they may be. In Jesus’ day women who were widowed were especially vulnerable. Losing their husbands, they lost their support. If they lost their sons their plight was worse. In a society where men were the sole providers, women had nothing without them. It could happen in such a situation that women sold themselves, which leads us to the story for today. Was the woman in the gospel one of those women?

It’s a situation that exists even in our time. “Doesn’t he know what kind of woman she is?” Jesus’ host asks. Yes, he does. He understands her circumstances quite well. Luke’s gospel especially takes up their cause.

You notice how the gospel ends today with Luke’s summary of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem.

Accompanying him were the Twelve
and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities,
Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,
Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza,
Susanna, and many others who provided for them
out of their resources. (Luke 8,1-3)

Luke carefully notes that women followed Jesus. He had empowered them; then they empowered him and his gospel. That’s the way love and forgiveness works. Luke reminds the men of his church that women had an important place in the life and ministry of Jesus. For him women’s issues were not just women’s issues, they were men’s issues as well.

Today is Fathers’ Day. As we honor fathers, let’s remember that the scriptures expand the definition of father beyond biological terms. God is “Our Father in heaven”, “Father of the poor”, “Father of the widow”, “Father of orphans.” He the God of the vulnerable. Luke embraces this expanded understanding of mother and father in his gospel. Let’s make it our own too.

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