The time of Pentecost
Homily of His Excellency Selim Sfeir
Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus
15th Sunday of Pentecost
Repentance of the sinful woman
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
1. Tears of love and pain.
How did this sinful woman, a great sinner known to all, dare to enter the
house of Simon the Pharisee, filled with distinguished guests? Two things
motivated her : she had faith in Jesus and she was overwhelmed by guilt.
She already knew Jesus, she had heard him preach, and she had witnessed
his kindness to other sinners, to those suffering the same inner anguish as
herself. All the years of guilt, self-blame and despair are released in a bath
of silent tears that flood Christ's feet - tears of love and trusting sorrow.
In an extraordinarily feminine gesture, she wipes Christ's feet with her
hair and pours all her precious perfume over them. Christ's infinitely
compassionate heart cannot remain unaffected by this scene. That same
heart is touched by our tears of repentance, torn from our sin-ridden
2. The gentle healer of wounded souls.
St. John summed up the foundation of our faith in a simple phrase: God
is love. In this story, Simon the Pharisee sees the sinful woman's shocking
actions; Jesus sees her contrite, sincere heart. He does not try to confuse
her, or make her feel guilty. Let us look how delicately he treats the
Samaritan woman at the well, or the adulteress threatened with stoning.
All he asks is that we go to him, admit our guilt, ask his forgiveness and
be ready to return to him. Christ receives us as he received the sinful
woman. He does not want to point out our guilt, but seeks to heal us.
Confession is that - Jesus casts his loving gaze upon us, heals our souls
and gives us strength.
3. "Your sins are forgiven."
Having sown seeds, which he hopes will grow love in the hearts of Simon
and his guests, who are listening attentively, Jesus turns back to the
woman. He speaks words that only he can say, words that free her from
her heavy burden, words that bring peace to her soul and an end to her
tears, words that change her life forever, making her an ardent disciple of
the Lord: "Your sins are forgiven." Then other words follow, just as
gentle, just as encouraging, just as capable of changing a life: "Your faith
has saved you, go in peace." With regained dignity, the woman slowly
rises, faces the stunned and still hostile guests, and silently withdraws.
Have Jesus' words penetrated our hearts and minds in the same way? Yet
we hear them every time we receive the sacrament of reconciliation: "I
forgive you all your sins". Have our lives been transformed like this
Lord, I place my soul before you, humbly acknowledging all my past and
present sins. I recognize through my weaknesses that I need you so much,
the life of my soul. Help me always to recognize my faults and lack of
willpower, and to make a true conversion of heart and life. Let me always
see that my only glory is that of having been redeemed by you.
† Selim Sfeir
Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus