Sunday Gospel Reflection (Luke 7:36—8:3)
The Pharisees in today’s Gospel, miss a crucial point: Only the one who recognizes their sin, sincerely repents, and asks forgiveness receives the blessing of being forgiven, and hence, loving more. The Pharisees mistake is that they consider themselves to be blameless, and therefore, they look down on other people whom they consider less worthy of God’s favor. Little do they know, their presumption blinds them to what God sees. Jesus’ parable is meant to enlighten them that they should be more concerned with sincerely loving God than they are with comparing themselves with others.
We often hear it said that Jesus ate with sinners. We should also be reminded that Jesus ate with Pharisees – sinners like the rest of us, but too self-righteous to recognize this to be true. Christ’s mercy does not discriminate. Still, the one thing that can stand as an obstacle to his love and forgiveness is our own ego.
Some people’s egotism takes the form of despair (My sins are too great for God to forgive me); the Pharisee’s egotism takes the form of presumption (I am not a sinner and I’m better than other people).
Christ’s subtle message to the Pharisees dining with him is “Don’t be so sure of yourself when you judge this woman.” First, he points out that she loves more and has greater faith than they do. Then, he stuns them by forgiving all her sins. The sinful woman offers a sincere prayer with her tears, which indicate what is in her heart, while astute and calculating Pharisees offer no sign of what their heart holds besides their uncomfortable silence and judgmental glares. Because their hearts are hard and cold, they cannot receive the consolation of Christ’s words of forgiveness.
One important lesson from today’s Gospel is that we should not compare ourselves with others. In God’s eyes we are all his creatures, we are all fallen from grace, and we all need his mercy. Focus rather on your personal relationship with God.
And before we judge other people we should first make sure the plank is removed from our own eye.
Jesus does know that the woman who weeps before him is a sinner. He also knows her heart. If we want to be more like him and imitate him more perfectly, we should try to see people the way he sees them and attend to the sinful people in our lives with compassion, mercy, and understanding.
Of course, this does not necessarily mean that we should tolerate bad sins – love the sinner, hate the sin, like Jesus did.
A careful reading of the gospels reveals that Christ did not denounce Pharisees per se, but rather, hypocrisy, which is a vice that afflicts people regardless of their religious or political affiliations. God bless!
Very true, Saintly Sages. It is important to distinguish between sin, which Jesus hates, and sinners, whom he loves — gave his life for their salvation.
Jesus did say, “Woe to you, Pharisees!” but what he denounced was pharisaism, which is a particularly subtle form of hypocrisy. More than just saying one thing and doing another (“Do what they say, but do not imitate what they do”), pharisaism is moreover a deformation of conscience in which one justifies oneself by constantly pointing out the speck in their neighbor’s eye, while disregarding the plank in their own. They thereby justify themselves when, in God’s eyes, they are not just. In fact, their souls are in peril because of this pharisaical attitude.
I believe that Jesus preached so vehemently against this particular state of self-righteousness, because it makes it impossible to have an honest relationship with God, while the person in question possibly believes he could not be in a better relationship with God. Not only do they influence others badly because of this type of behavior, they also reinforce their own faulty beliefs about their own righteousness. As a result, they only separate themselves more from God.
And of course we see this played out perfectly as the Pharisees’ attempts to discredit Jesus develop into their plotting to kill him and eventually having the Son of God killed — they killed their Savior and Redeemer.
So because their mindset and behavior were condemnable, they themselves stood the real chance of facing their own real condemnation.
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Thank you for this lovely reflection. I have reposted it on Catholicism Pure & Simple.
Thank you so much, Kathleen, for reposting this post on CP&S — a great Catholic blog. You always have great quality content. So I’m very honored that you would share this post with your readers on your site. Thanks a lot and God bless!
Yes, this is something to think over, very carefully:
“We often hear it said that Jesus ate with sinners. We should also be reminded that Jesus ate with Pharisees – sinners like the rest of us, but too self-righteous to recognize this to be true.”
Thanks for this insight.
Thanks, Reinkat. It’s subtle and ironic how the way typically look down on the Pharisees can actually take the form of enacting the very behavior that we find reprehensible by pointing the finger at them. Pharisees are sinners like everyone. The one difference is that because they say they can see, their blindness remains.
So when people start condemning others on account of hypocrisy, especially with regard to the Church or some religious group, practice, or religion in general, I often get the sense that in doing so they somehow receive some gratification in justifying their own shortcomings. That’s a pharisaical attitude, which is beyond hypocrisy. As Jesus points out, the hypocrite condemns his very self by pointing the finger at others.
Yeah, it must be human nature. My husband and I were just talking about the NSA scandal, and how political types of the leftish persuasion are hastening to defend and note how many attacks have been prevented and etc etc–but how they screamed about civil liberties when Bush did these things . . . Sometimes I think we just have agendas in our heads, or some preconceived notions about any thing at all, and just resist a new or contrary thought. And of course we don’t see that, are blind to it in ourselves. I found your insight a wonderful warning to be aware of these things within ourselves above all, because we all do it. The first step to eliminating hypocrisy is to notice it, and define it. Then it can be dealt with–=begining with the log in my own eye.
Great post. Our priest talked also about knowing we need God. He spoke in his homily about how this woman came into the Pharisee’s home uninvited because she knew she needed God and how we all need Him in our lives.
That is the core of this passage — we need God. Thank you for your comment!
Great message Biltrix. Our Priest gave a great homily on this, one I hope to share soon. Thanks for all of your input on it also. God bless, SR
Thanks SR. I’m looking forward to reading your post. God bless!