Preached at Holy Sepulcher Parish on June 11, 2016 at 6:00PM and June 12, 2016 at 8:00am and 10:30am Masses
One day I made the mistake of asking my wife why it takes her so long to get her nails done at the mall, after all you can probably trim and paint your nails yourself in a few minutes at home. What I got out of this conversation was a required trip to the salon to see exactly what goes on when you get a manicure and a pedicure. I had no idea all that was going there. I wondered why my wife took a stack of magazines with her each time, and now I know. It takes forever. The old polish is removed and then the nails on both your hands and feet get trimmed, shaped, scraped, filed, and buffed. But it is more than just the nails. Your hands and feet get washed, scrubbed, and soaked in moisturizer. Any rough skin you have is exfoliated, which I learned means that you scraped with a rough stone until your callouses disappear or you can no longer stand to be tickled any longer, whichever comes first. I know because I couldn’t stop laughing as they did my feet.
Yes, I have to admit that I had a manicure and a pedicure, and despite the word “man” being in the word “manicure,” it is not a manly thing to do. I was in fact the only man there. But I admit that I liked it. My wife goes because it relaxes her and makes her feel good, and I have to agree with her. I did pass on having my nails painted though. “Come on, that’s the best part,” a woman joked. No the best part of the nail process was the hand and foot massage, the little foaming hot tub for your feet, and the chair does such wonderful things to your back that you will forget your own name. What is most important about a manicure and pedicure is not the polish, it is all the things you cannot see.
I mention my manicure and pedicure today because it seems that in today’s gospel that Jesus, while not necessarily having his nails trimmed, does receive some of the good parts of a pedicure. He had his feet washed and dried, ointment applied, and he even had his feet kissed, which must be part of the upgraded package because nobody kissed my feet at the salon. We are told she is a sinful woman, although it is not obvious in her appearance because the Pharisee says that if Jesus were a prophet he would know what type of woman was touching him. So she probably did not look like a sinner to the others in attendance that day because a prophet would be needed to recognize her sinfulness.
I think that makes the sinful woman just like most of us here today. I think that is why she is not named in the gospel, so that we could more easily see ourselves as the woman. Just like her much of our sin is hidden from others. We’re all certainly good people. We come to Mass, we probably do volunteer work, donate to charity, and help out our neighbor; we do not commit murder, rob banks, or cheat on our spouses. We are good people and I think it would be quite hard for those sitting around us to point out our biggest sins because we cover them up and hide them. Even our spouse or our parents may not know our biggest sins, although I’m sure they have a pretty good idea already that we are not perfect. Only a prophet would know truly what sort of person we might be.
Jesus knew the sinful woman, of course, and our Lord truly knows us and what sort of person we are. I know all of you are at Mass right now and most of you seem to be paying attention, but our truly Lord knows if you are mentally and spiritually present and worshiping God, or whether you are simply here to check off your Sunday obligation. People in the parish may know that we volunteer at the bazaar or in another ministry, a charity may recognize our donation, and our neighbor may appreciate the help that we gave them, but our Lord knows if we did these things out of love and to make someone else’s life better, or whether we did these things simply out of pride, to feel good about ourselves, to get attention, to be better than someone else, or to impress God. Our Lord truly knows us and how deep our goodness is. He knows our hearts, our thoughts, and our browsing history.
So in many ways we are the sinful woman, but we are much like the Pharisee as well. He was doing a good thing inviting Jesus to dinner, but Jesus could hear his thoughts about the sinful woman and Jesus could see the pride that was in his heart. He may have been a respected member of the community and may have hidden his sins from others, unlike the sinful woman, but Jesus knew what sort of person he was. He had a good external appearance for others, in fact his nails probably looked great, but our Lord looks at all the things on the inside of us that we hide from others. That is what makes Jesus feel good or bad about us.
Now the woman, except for her sinfulness, offers us an example of how we need to be. She is weeping so much that she is able to wash Jesus’ feet with her tears (and that is a lot of tears!), maybe about her many sins, maybe because things aren’t going so well in her life, but clearly she is in great need. She doesn’t text someone, post to Facebook, or turn to drugs or alcohol. First, she goes to Jesus. She searches him out, finds where he is, and invites herself into the Pharisees house. Nothing will prevent her from Jesus because she knows he is the answer to her problems. Next, she washes Jesus feet. In biblical times the roads were dusty and so it was customary that when someone entered your home you gave them water and a towel to clean their feet. They didn’t have mini hot tubs to clean them. Everyone cleaned their own feet, only a servant would wash another person’s feet. By her washing Jesus’ feet the sinful woman was showing Jesus that he was her master. That’s what we need to do, make Jesus the master of our lives and all that we do. Finally, the sinful woman didn’t just wash his feet with water and a towel, she used her tears, her hair, and an alabaster jar of ointment. She was showing Jesus that she cared for him, that he was important and worth something to her, she was showing great love. Do we feel the same for Jesus as the sinful woman? Do we love Jesus enough to give him the best of ourselves and the best of lives?
The woman in today’s gospel is called sinful, yet she makes Jesus feel good. She has committed sins but Jesus does not even mention them except to say that they have been forgiven her. Why? Jesus says, “Because she has shown great love.” Our Lord does not focus on our sins, he focuses on our love. He doesn’t focus on what we look like, whether our nails are done, or how we appear to others while we are at Mass, volunteering, or going about our day, he cares about what’s on the inside of our hearts.
We need to be like the sinful woman, to approach Jesus, to make him the master of our lives, and to show great love. We find everything we need when we approach Jesus, our lives are changed when we make him our master, and we ourselves are transformed by love. The sinful woman did this and Jesus told her, “Go in peace. Your faith has saved you.” There is only one way to go from being a sinner to being saved. Jesus!
Rejoice and be glad!