On Luke 7:36-50. For the text of this Gospel passage, please click here.
The importance of the Sacrament of Penance! The importance of true repentance! The importance of a real amendment of one’s ways in future, in word and deed!
What does this Pharisee, exulting in his self-righteousness, typify but the Jewish people? And the woman, the sinner who came and wept at the feet of the Lord, symbolise the Gentile world. She came with her alabaster box. She poured out her ointment. She knelt at his feet, in back, washing them with her tears, wiping them with her hair. Nor did she cease to kiss those feet she had so anointed and so wiped. That woman typifies us also, if when we have sinned we return to the Lord with a whole heart and imitate the example of her penitent grief. Of what is the ointment a type but of the sweet savour of a good reputation? Of this Paul says: “For we are the good fragrance of Christ for God in every place.”
If, therefore, we do good works which gain for the whole Church the savour of good repute, we pour out our ointment upon the body of our Lord. The woman at the feet of Jesus remained behind him but we – do we not stand opposed to him when we continue obdurate in sin and dispute his path. But when we are turned yet again and truly, earnestly repent of our sin, we stand behind him. We follow in the footsteps of one against we contended [by every single sin we commit; however small the sin may appear to us. One with a mature and trained conscience realises that there is no such thing as a “little sin”]. The woman washed his feet with her tears. We, too, do that very thing when we are moved to show compassion to the very least members of the Lord – when we comfort his holy ones in tribulation, when we make their sorrows our own.
Hence, we wipe the feet of the Lord with hair when we give as charity to his holy ones, even things for which we have no need. When our hearts sympathise, the bounty of our hand shows the truth of our compassion. The hand shows itself more generous when the mind is more deeply moved by compassion. The man who sympathises with the sufferings of his neighbour, yet gives nothing to alleviate them, even from the things he does not need, may wash the feet of the Saviour, but he does not wipe them with hair. Nor does he who gives words of pity to the sufferings of his brother but fails to remove the source of suffering. He weeps but he does not wipe the Lord’s feet. The woman kissed the feet she wiped. We do that, too, if we love warmly those we support out of our bounty – when the need of our neighbour is not irksome to us, nor the poverty we relieve a weariness to us, nor while our hand ministers to his wants our heart is untouched by compassion.
– From: St Gregory, Pope, Homily 33 on the Gospels [titles added afterwards], from: An Approved Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, London, 1964