1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain.

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.

Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 28

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!

Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”

the right hand of the Lord is exalted; the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.” I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.

You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you.

Luke 7:36-50

One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.” Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied, “speak.” “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”



I remember as a young child hearing this Gospel and having a vague feeling of jealousy toward those sinners who had been forgiven much and so love the Lord that much more. It seemed to me that of all the claims to fame, nothing was greater than being known for how much you love the Lord. It seemed almost as though the great sinners got to be fast-tracked to that end.

Such was my thought as a child. There was much that I did not understand about sin, or God, or forgiveness. What I have come to know instead is that we are all sinners in need of God’s mercy. If we want to be forgiven much, we do not need to sin more, but to repent more. The Pharisee in the Gospel, even though he may have always followed the law and pursued a life of righteousness, still needed to repent of his sins and be forgiven by Jesus. He had the same opportunity to love God as the woman did, only he did not. He doesn’t love God less because he has sinned less. He loved God less because he thought he sinned less.

If we think we are doing well on our own, we are less likely to seek God’s mercy. But this would be a mistake. To acknowledge our sins before God and to avail ourselves of God’s mercy is not to beat ourselves up unduly or to see ourselves as less than others. What it does mean is to follow St. Paul’s example in saying “by the grace of God, I am what I am.” Because by the grace of God, we are loved. By the grace of God, we are forgiven. By the grace of God, we are made worthy of heaven and eternal life. We can command none of these of our own will. We can require of no one to love us. We can require of no one to forgive us. And we cannot attain eternal life through any other means. These are all of God’s gifts to us, and the more we run to him, and the more we depend on him, the more we embrace the words of the psalmist in proclaiming God’s goodness to us.

In order to receive great forgiveness from God, we do not need to make ourselves great sinners first. We are already there. But we do need to constantly seek after God’s mercy. The more mercy we seek, the more forgiveness we receive, and the more we are free to love God for his goodness. Let us aspire to be people who are known for how much we love God, and let us pray for God’s grace in our lives that we may draw ever nearer to him through our repentance.

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