1 Timothy 4:12-16
A certain Pharisee invited Jesus to dine with him, and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. Luke 7:36
As the Evangelist Luke begins this account of a home visit that Jesus is making, in today’s Gospel, we are unaware of the drama that is about to unfold. With these simple words, Luke is letting us know that Jesus is again entering a home for yet another dinner, at the invitation of prominent dignitary by the name of Simon. There is no hint of what is truly happening as Jesus enters this home, and what was behind this “invitation” to Jesus. What takes place truly surprises us.
Many of us have been caught in social situations that we find “difficult.” I don’t know how many times people have asked me about going to social events, like weddings, after they have been invited, knowing that the welcoming will be missing and that those who invited you will probably be rude. We dread being put on the spot and we dread being put into a situation that may provoke us into reactions that may make us lose control. We would rather avoid them.
Jesus probably knew that this dinner invitation was not extended from the heart, but from a position of social advantage. Simon may have wanted to show his social circle that his money and position was prominent enough to bring Jesus into his home. But Simon was just about to find out that inviting Jesus into your home and having him recline at table with you is not enough. He needed to welcome Jesus as a loving friend worthy of all of the signs of welcome that are extended to even strangers. What Simon thought was going to be a social triumph, turned into a social disaster for him.
As the meal progressed, a woman who had no place at Simon’s table found a place in Jesus’ heart. Known as a public sinner, this woman may have had a prior encounter with Jesus that changed her life completely. Maybe she was present at the Sermon on the Plains, which took place a chapter before in Luke’s Gospel. Her conversion was total. Jesus’ words changed her life. She was no longer going to live a life of dependency on addiction and sin. She was turning over her life to God. She kissed Jesus’ feet, washed them with her tears and anointed him with precious perfume that she no longer needed.
What a contrast to Simon! He didn’t receive Jesus with a kiss of welcome, did not offer him water for his tired feet and did not anoint him with the common oil of welcome. And Luke, the master of irony, has Simon thinking: if only Jesus knew what kind of woman this sinner was who was making such a display of affection for him! Well, Jesus did know. She was a sinner who turned her life around and now she was completely devoted to Jesus, her Savior. But Jesus also knew what kind of person Simon was.
So, Jesus did not hesitate entering into difficult social situations. They became occasions of healing for those who needed his loving presence there. We may want to rethink about being invited to attend difficult social situations. They are not really about us, but about the Grace of God!
Fr. Clemente Barrón, C.P. is stationed in Citrus Heights, California.