A meal hard to digest- Thursday, 24th week in ordinary time – Lk 7:36-50

The story of the woman anointing Jesus’ feet occurs in each of the other three canonical Gospels with a few differences in the each narrative.  In Luke’s narrative, there is a gradual revelation in the story. First we are told who the host is (verse 40), then who the guests are (verse49), the action that prompts the chief guests speech (in this case Simon’s unspoken action) and finally the speech of the chief guest, namely Jesus.

The setting is a meal that Jesus was invited to by a Pharisee named Simon. It must be assumed that Simon had developed some admiration or friendship with Jesus for table fellowship was shared with those that one was close to. There are others who point out that this setting in Luke is similar to a Hellenistic (Greek) symposium, an ancient genre in which a host invites guests to his home to dialogue about weighty abstract matters like love, friendship, or wisdom.

In such a setting, a woman who was a sinner in the city learns that Jesus is in Simon’s house. She obviously decides to gate crash this ‘dinner symposium’ but not with her lofty words or thoughts on love or friendship but with her simple but profound actions. She washes Jesus’ feet with her tears, wipes it with her hair and anoints His feet with ointment which she has carried in an alabaster jar.

Simon’s dinner party which was supposed to be a lively discussion with Jesus is now stunned into silence by the action of this unnamed woman. But more than the silence in the room, the Gospel highlights the ‘silence’ in Simon’s heart. The ‘symposium setting’ of this meal would necessitate the participants to air their thoughts aloud and here was Simon who now “says to himself” or rather begins to doubt in his heart if Jesus was truly a prophet, for Jesus did not object to the woman’s action.

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