It seems like such an unimportant question, right there in the middle of the Gospel….Jesus asked, ”Do you see this woman”? Now –when Jesus asks a question, I’d say we’d better take a few minutes and look at her. Who is she? And why was she crying?
I think it’s pretty safe to assume that she and Jesus have met before. Something happened BEFORE this Gospel. We don’t really know WHAT...but I got to wondering if she might have been the woman in John’s Gospel – you all know the story..the Pharisees drug a woman up to Jesus and told him that she’d been caught in the act of adultery and the Law of Moses DEMANDS that she should be stoned to death. Jesus said that famous line – Let him without sin cast the first stone. After everybody had walked away, he said “Nobody’s left to condemn you…I don’t condemn her either – go and sin no more.”
Now – maybe the woman in today’s Gospel is NOT that woman – but I’d bet that she had a similar experience with Jesus, so I’ll use her as my example today. Her sin was public knowledge – everybody knew about it – ….that’s why they all looked down their noses and started whispering to each other when she walked in. She had been drug before the court of public opinion and found unacceptable. I’d bet that has something to do with why she was crying.
Have you ever gone through a really tough, stressful time –– like maybe our senior year in college where we had our senior project due, plus our part time job, plus finals all in the same week - or like waiting for the results from a medical test, and finally getting the answer – When those times were over – how did you feel. The burden has been lifted! Somehow, In the midst of the chaos, we might hold it together, but when it’s over – we just need to cry.
I felt that same way recently after a particularly bad week at work. A buddy at work has a tumor in his abdomen, so another lady and I were learning how to fill-in for him while he was out for surgery. We were spending a stupid number of hours and were stressed beyond my limits physically and mentally…but that Friday, we got word that his tumor was inoperable. The emotions that brought up went on top of all the other stress of the week… On the way home, I had the thought that I needed to stop at church and talk to Jesus…and so I came in and knelt down right here next to the tabernacle. As I did, I could feel the stress melting away, and the emotion welling up and I felt the need to cry. I’m kind of embarrassed to say that, but I wanted to share because at that moment – I was like the woman in the Gospel. I was crying at the feet of Jesus. I had only endured a week or two of stress, but SHE had endured months or even years of living a life you and I could only imagine. Every day, she bit her lip, lowered her self-esteem, and endured the snobbish looks as people shunned her – endured being treated like an object and not a person. After so long, she came to believe that she WASN’T a person after all – somehow she DESERVED what she got. Do you see this woman? When people did look at her, all they saw was her sin.
Until today…, she was drug out into the street and was SURE she was going to die. She was terrified…she’d seen other women stoned to death for what she had done. But then she saw Jesus. And for the first time she could remember, someone looked at her as a person – not an object. He looked PAST her sin and saw the heart of a good person - someone whom God loved deeply. In HIS eyes, instead of condemnation – she saw mercy – she saw love – real love – not the make-believe love she had grown accustomed to. That vision of love changed her life.
That brings us back to today’s Gospel –this woman is SO taken with the Love she saw in those eyes, that she ignores the stares and sneers and whispered innuendos of those around her and approaches Jesus. As she falls at his feet, the stress melts away and she can’t contain the emotion welling up inside her as the tears start to fall uncontrollably. She feels all the regret for years of sin controlling her life, but mainly she feels relief.. a chance to start again, and thankfulness for the forgiveness she has already received. See – everyone in society would have been telling her since she was a little girl that her sin was unforgivable….UNFORGIVABLE. But today, she found the truth…and her only possible response was to fall down and cry at the feet of Jesus.
So – Do you see this woman? Do you see this woman in anyone you know? Is there someone we routinely ignore? Somebody whom we’ve already written off as “unacceptable”? Somebody we immediately Judge – and all we see is their sin – what they’ve done wrong? Or – maybe we’ve allowed what someone TOLD us about somebody to taint our image of them before we even met them. Do you see this woman?
Do you see this woman in YOU? Surely, you and I can relate somehow. We’ve all sinned – and very likely our sin is as disgusting to God as this woman’s sin – or David’s sin in the first reading when he had Uriah killed. At some point, each one of us will realize that we’ve allowed our sin to control some part of our lives – we might even think we’re unforgivable. When we finally meet Jesus face-to-face and look into those eyes of Love…at that moment, all the stress, pain, deceit, shame…all of it…will be washed away …and the only response we can possibly make: is to fall down and cry at the feet of Jesus.