A central idea in today’s Gospel reading (Lk 7:36-8:3) is that it is the outcast person, or publicly recognized sinful person who accepts Jesus, as he accepts them. The elite people (Simon) do not accept Jesus for who he says he is, and so they themselves keep their own distance from God’s grace. The attitude of the heart is everything in the gospel reading today.
I remember at one time working in a city, where there were many Episcopal or Anglican parishes. Yet two were remarkable by comparison. One of the two parishes was on the side of a lovely mountain, where there were vineyards, and large properties, beautiful views, and great wealth. The parish there was quite small in membership, however, and they were not very generous in their outreach. The other or second of the two parishes was down on the lowlands. The people there were much poorer, and life was tenuous and difficult. The parish there was much larger, and the people much more generous as a percentage, per capita. The contrast between these two parishes is just the same as the contrast between the woman in our gospel reading, and Simon. The poor, outcast, repentant woman had an attitude of gratitude to God for forgiveness. The wealthy Simon, had little thought of any need for forgiveness, and for that reason had little gratitude to God.
“In God’s sight, little forgiveness (was) shown to Simon, not because of his conduct, but because of his fundamental (judgmental) attitude” (Fitzmyer p. 692).
By contrast, the woman in this story, before this story began, had already realized and accepted God’s forgiveness for her sins, and was filled with overwhelming gratitude. She expressed her gratitude with her tears, her hair, and her perfume. The same quality of penitence and the acceptance of forgiveness are reflected also in the sinner David’s Psalm 32, and also in our OT story of the sinner David in relation to Bathsheba, and to Uriah (1 Ki 19:1-8). Both the woman in the gospel, and King David had confessed their sin, had sought God’s forgiveness, and realized and accepted that God had forgiven them. Both of them had been freed in their hearts. I too can repent, and then accept that I am released from captivity to guilt and resentment. I can live with an attitude of gratitude to God for that forgiveness.
What is your and my attitude to others, and what is your and my attitude to God? We should realize and accept our sorely needed forgiveness. We should have an overwhelming attitude of gratitude for how we experience God’s love and forgiveness.
Our Eucharistic service begins with the Gloria — an attitude of praise and thanksgiving. The heart is the thing. Do you and I repent, accept God’s forgiveness, and then open our hearts in thankfulness, love, and praise to God?