FATHER’S DAY 2013
The Rev. Leonard Oakes
A group of men came to me on Father’s Day. Almost in chorus, they begged, “Father Leonard, please encourage our wives to pour out their sermons intended for us to you instead.” I asked, “Why?” With an even louder voice they cried, “You say it better than they do!” I said to them, “I hear you!”
To all fathers, grandfathers, those soon to be fathers and hoping to be one, and all those who play the role of a father, Happy Father’s Day! For those who just lost their fathers, May God the father who is the greatest dad embrace you more.
Today being Father’s Day, I would like to take this opportunity to talk to all fathers heart to heart. You see, I am being a father of three, I understand and feel what you are going through. When things seem to be closing in on you and that you don’t have any other ways to go, I feel you. When you have to work double and try to squeeze your budget just to have a roof and three meals a day, I feel you. When your child wishes to go to a school she/he loves going and you don’t have the means to meet that need and it hurts to explain that to them even when it feels like you are discouraging them to follow their dreams, I am with you. I am with you when at times you fall short to commit some of your hours with your family on a weekend or any other days because you have to attend to a meeting or have work. When being a grandfather, you have some sleepless nights thinking about your grandchildren if they are in good hands and have something to eat or buy their needs and that you wish you could call them and live with you but you can’t because you also have your own needs, I empathize with you. When you have to swallow your pride and needing to borrow money from someone even if that means making yourself vulnerable to the possibility of being used, I am with you there.
When at night, you try to send a signal to your wife that you love her by throwing your arms around her and if she takes it away, don’t worry I had enough experiences on that too. Now, Fr. Jurek has a good suggestion on how to deal with stress and going away with it in times of crisis like this. You see, Fr. Jurek understands that one of the biggest factors of high blood pressure among men is the fear of rejection. So he has an advise for you. I am telling you this because, stress is one of the factors of men’s risk of high blood pressure and failure in a relationship. Wives, take note. Men sometimes don’t understand why you are tired. But if you simply say, “Let’s do it tomorrow” you have to mean it.
After the service, the congregation will honor the fathers and induct the officers for HCSM men. But a friend of mine posted on his facebook of one way to please the fathers. It said, “Don’t bother yourself about Father’s Day. Just give the fathers and grandfathers big $$$ bucks and they’ll know where to celebrate even for just a day of two.”
Now let’s go to the Gospel. The Gospel reading from Luke is unique in setting from the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and John. The three Gospels happened in Bethany and Luke had it in the house of Simon the Pharisee.
In order for us to have a better understanding on the story, we need to understand Jesus’ ongoing conflict with the Pharisees. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said to the Pharisees that prostitutes and tax collectors will go into the kingdom of God before them. So Jesus had this ongoing conflict with the Pharisees. In the story for today, we discover that Jesus was invited to the home of none other than Simon the Pharisee whom jesus had recently insulted and told that sinners and prostitutes would enter the Kingdom of heaven before they would. In other words, the scene is set for another “bloody confrontation” of words and wits between Jesus and the Pharisees.
Jesus was invited into a banquet party. I know that on Sunday the 23rd, we will be joining the rest of EAM delegates to a banquet dinner in China Town. About 300 or more people will be there. Jesus would have been invited into a large open courtyard of the house. The people there were not merely having a dinner; they were having a banquet, meaning the tables were laden with food and the home was filled with people, important people. Jesus was a well known “religious big shot” by then. It wouldn’t be like Fr Leonard is coming to dinner, but It would be like having Archbishop Desmond Tutu, or the Dalai Lama coming to dinner, and that would have been very special. To have the most famous rabbi in the country come to dinner was very special and everyone would have been excited…and nervous at the same time, because of the earlier conflicts that Jesus had had with many of guests whom we assume were Pharisees.
As Jesus enters, Simon greeted him, but did not give Jesus some of the common expected courtesies. Normally, when family friends visit you in your home,you would embrace them, hug them, touch them in a friendly way. But Simon did none of these. That was strange. That was being aloof and cold towards Jesus. It was another plot for Jesus. When Jesus came in, Simon normally would have offered Jesus water with which to bath his feet or have a servant girl wash his feet. Simon offered neither. No water for Jesus. And normally, Simon would have offered olive oil to soothe Jesus’ hands and feet, but Simon did not offer him olive oil either. So there was a definite coldness from Simon towards Jesus.
And who did those things? 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. And she began to cry, crying not a little bit. She cries so much that her tears actually wet Jesus’ feet. She then takes her hair which would have been braided around her head, long, dark, brown hair, and she unbraids it and lets it down and starts to wash Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair. People were stunned. People were speechless. No one knew what to say. The woman was doing something which was totally inappropriate, letting down her hair like that in public, crying her tears over Jesus’ feet. It was all so improper, so offensive, so borderline disgusting. It violated the rules of civil etiquette. And then this woman starts kissing his feet. How strange. I wonder how many thought it was strange for Pope Francis to wash the feet of women and kissed them? But not so strange to people who understood in Jewish custom that if somebody have saved your life, you would come to that person and kiss his feet. So that she was kissing Jesus’ feet implies and reveals that Jesus may have rescued her earlier. If someone has saved you, a way to acknowledge that is to come and kiss that person’s feet. Perhaps, Jesus had saved her from prostitution. All at the banquet are perplexed and speechless at her behavior.
What did the Pharisees do? When the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he was saying to himself how deeply he condemns this woman, this adulteress, this piece of sinner. And Jesus, being a prophet and reading Simons’s heart, knew that Simon’s heart was filled with egocentric self righteousness and cutting condemnation. Simon was looking down his nose at this woman for Simon felt that he was several cuts above her.
And Jesus said to him, “Simon, come over here, I have something to say to you.” Oh, oh, We know what’s going to happen next. Yes, we can sense that Simon is going to get an earful as he hears a Word from the Lord. We can hear it coming because we know the story. But Simon, he didn’t. He thought his inner convictions were known only to himself. He naively asks Jesus to continue.
“Teacher,” he replied, “speak.”
Jesus told Simon a parable knowing what was in his heart. “Simon, I need to tell you a story. There once were two men and they were both in debt to a money lender, a banker. The one was in debt five hundred denarii or five hundred days of wages. That is being deeply in debt, to owe someone almost two years of wages. The second man was in debt for fifty denarii or fifty days of wages, less than two months of wages. The money lender forgave both people their debts. Now, which of the two would be more appreciative to the money lender?”
Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” Simon the Pharisee said, “The one who was forgiven the most, I suppose.” 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. Jesus, looking at the woman, said to Simon, “Simon, I came into your house and you gave me no water for my feet but she has been bathing my feet with her tears. I came into your house and you did not welcome me with a warm embrace but she has been kissing my feet. I came into your house and you did not give me oil to anoint my hands and feet, but she has been anointing my feet with precious oil.”
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.” Jesus then added these profound words, “The person who has been forgiven much, loves much. A person who has been forgiven much, has much compassion in their heart.” Whoever is forgiven much, loves much. Whoever is forgiven little, loves little.”
What a Word from the Lord. So true. So applicable to our own lives.
When a person realizes the number of mistakes one has made in own’s own life, then that person is more willing to forgive others who make similar mistakes in their life.
Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Jesus forgave the woman’s sin and that action would upset the Pharisees. The Pharisees believed that according to their interpretation of the Old Testament, only God had the power and authority to forgive sins. By forgiving sins, Jesus was claiming the authority of God. But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” Yes, the Pharisees are beginning to slowly realize what Jesus is saying and implying about himself…that he is the Son of God, the Presence of God, the Person of God in human form.
And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
In this story, whom do you identify with? Who are you in the story?