Recently I’ve been reading the book I Choose the Sky by Emily Wilson of Lifeteen. There is one story and reflection by Emily that I would like to share with you that really spoke to my heart:
One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house, and took his place at table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed 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 sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner. ” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “What is it, Teacher?” “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he forgave them both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, to whom he forgave more.” And he 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 wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss 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 are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at 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 want to be like her.
When I read the account of the sinful woman, I know there is much that she and I have in common.
The main commonality we have? Sin. Sin comes in a multitude of forms, with each sin I commit a conscious turning away from God, turning my back on His love, turning my back on the way I know is good. Sin is sin – and this woman and I, we both know it well.
The second commonality she and I share? The choice of what we do in our sin. It is a choice each of us receives… to run toward God or run away from God.
in the midst of all her grief and shame, in all her embarrassment and sin – she hears that Jesus is in her town. Upon hearing this news, she is faced with two choices… the first is to stay at home. Imagine the dialogue in her head, “Why would Jesus want to see me? I have messed up too greatly for Him to look on me with love.” Her second choice is to go out and meet Christ where He is, knowing deeply that in her sin, Christ is all she needs. This woman knows well where her need lies and she chooses the latter. She does not hide in her sin, nor does she recoil from Jesus in her shame… instead, she stops at nothing to get to Him. She finds the house where Jesus is visiting, goes inside, and showers Him with and enormous outpouring of love born out of deep emotion and genuine sorrow. She fervently seeks Jesus to lavish Him with all the love in her heart.
Oh, how this woman shows us how to seek Christ’s mercy with reckless abandon.
She shows us how passionately we are to seek God in the throes of sin and brokenness, and I want to live like her – in this moment – when I experience sorrow and shame. I want my response to be to run to encounter God right where I know He is.
Jesus does not walk this Earth in a physical body today. He does not stop by to have dinner with our neighbors or teach in the streets. But I know where Jesus is in my town. Jesus is present in the Eucharist in a church less than two miles from my house. I can get there in a quick bike ride or drive. I know what time Mass is, I know that the adoration chapel is open 24 hours a day, and I know that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is available on Thursday evenings and twice on Saturdays.
I know where Jesus is, I know where I can rest in His presence and His mercy, but there are too many times when I run the other way. In my human frailty and pride, I rationalize my sin as not being bad enough to enter the confessional. Sometimes I decide that I am too busy, and other times I just cannot look at His body on the crucifix at the front of the Church because I feel I do not deserve mercy for the mess I am making.
But God beckons me back; He gently tugs on my heart in those moments when I have run and asks me to stop and reflect… how many times have I regretted running to God in my need? None. How many times have I wished I had not gone to confession? Zero. When have I ever felt that visiting Christ in the adoration chapel was a waste? Never. But in those times when I feel I have let God down and turned away – I am ashamed, I am embarrassed, and I feel like a failure.
She may have felt this word – failure – as sin consumed her life over and over again, a cycle she could not seem to free herself from. She may have felt the same words ringing loud in her heart as we do:
Maybe she called herself those names out loud. I have.
In times of deep desperation I have spoken ugly words to myself aloud as I have cried into the mirror, into my pillow, into my hands – words I would never dare speak to another. Words that steal and destroy. Words that are lies from the mouth of the enemy.
She falls at the feet of Christ and showers Him with love, and does He utter any such word… unworthy, unlovable, unforgivable?
No. He calls her woman. He sees her.
“Do you see this woman?” Not failure. Not sinner. Not stupid. Not a mess.
When you wake up in the morning, Jesus sees you. When you go about your day, He sees you. When you walk into the Church – He sees you. When you sit before the priest in the confessional nervous, embarrassed, or filled with shame – He sees you.
When you open the door of that small confessional and enter into the Sacrament of Reconciliation, when you sit in that chair across from a priest in persona Christi, Jesus Christ looks at you and only sees “woman.” He only sees “daughter.” He only sees “forgivable.” He only wishes to shower you with love and bestow upon you the power of His mercy.
Jesus looks upon the sinful woman just as He looks at us and says, “Your sins have been forgiven.” Every last one of them.
With the knowledge of this truth, may we live our lives running one way…
Toward love. Toward mercy. Toward Jesus Christ.
His merciful heart is open to each and every one of us.”
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Before I got this book and read this story, I was constantly overwhelmed with the thought that I was too far gone for Christ to love me, I was too much of a sinner, and to big of a mess for Him to have mercy on me. But this story opened my eyes to the beauty of Christ’s love.
Last night, I went to confession and before hand, I read this story and reflection. After I came out of the confessional I genuflected to get into the pew and once I was down on one knee, I cried and realized this: I am not too far gone for Christ’s love or His mercy. I never will be, because He will always be next to me tugging on my heart telling me that He wants to shower me with His mercy, His love, His compassion, and His understanding. And that he looks at me, just like He did with the sinful woman and sees me for who I truly am: His beloved daughter.