Serving Boston's West End, Beacon Hill and North Station Communities

Daily Reflection

Thursday, September 19- 24th Week of Ordinary Time
by Bishop Robert Barron
and Word on Fire
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Daily Gospel reading: Luke 7:36-50

Friends, our Gospel today tells the story of a woman who—in the house of Simon the Pharisee—approaches Jesus, weeping onto his feet and anointing them with oil. She is filled with a love for Christ that overflows in acts of self-offering and service; she breaks open her own heart in gratitude. But Simon has shown scant hospitality to his guest, offering little if anything of himself to Christ.

The abundance of the woman’s love discloses something to Jesus that had obviously been invisible to Simon: she has been forgiven much. “Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love.” It is most important to note that Jesus does not, strictly speaking, forgive her sins; rather, he notices that she has been forgiven. And the evidence for it is her self-forgetting love. She loves so passionately and so courageously (risking the disapproval of Simon’s elegant guests) precisely because she has been so graciously and abundantly forgiven.

It is decidedly not the case, Jesus implies, that love precedes divine forgiveness as a sort of prerequisite; on the contrary, forgiveness precedes love as the condition for its possibility. It is not the case that one’s moral life must be upright in order to win divine favor; rather, the sheer gift of God’s favor tends to produce an upright moral life, a life of love.