The Alabaster Woman

When life gets busy, the first thing I let go of is writing. It seems silly, since I know just how much writing means to me, just how much it fuels me and pulls me out of my head and into experience the here and now. The next thing I let go if my spiritual life. I still go to mass and pray before each meal and at bedtime, but I close off the part of me that always longs for more, that always longs to take the next step and really explore God.

But late at night, when I am finally in true silence, I feel a pull to write, and I feel a pull to listen. I think this might be one major way God communicates with me. And far too often, i pretend I am too physically or mentally exhausted to listen.

This week, now that my life is “in order” from a perfectionistic point of view (I finished my huge medical school exam, I got married and had an amazing honeymoon, and I moved apartments and got all organized), I find myself  feeling that pull again. In the silence, in the moments that are not packed full of academic efforts or social interactions,  I feel it.

So this morning I went to mass with a mission in mind. I wanted to get back on the same page with God again, ask for forgiveness for not going the extra mile (or extra five minutes a day) again, thank God for all these incredible gifts in my life that I often forget to appreciate again. It really does get old sometimes, for me, asking God to do what He (and/or She) has done for me so many times before. It really feels exhausting and embarrassing to have to go back to start over and over and over again. I think to myself, “Why do I always take two steps forward and one step back in my faith?” “Why can’t I be consistent,” and “Surely God has given me enough chances!”

Then I listen to the readings.

In the first reading, the prophet Nathan reminds the ever-sinful King David of all God has done for him:

Nathan said to David:
“Thus says the LORD God of Israel:
‘I anointed you king of Israel.
I rescued you from the hand of Saul.
I gave you your lord’s house and your lord’s wives for your own.
I gave you the house of Israel and of Judah.
And if this were not enough, I could count up for you still more.
Why have you rejected the LORD and done evil in his sight?
You have cut down Uriah the Hittite with the sword;
you took his wife as your own,
and him you killed with the sword of the Ammonites.
Now, therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house,
because you have looked down on me
and have taken the wife of Uriah to be your wife.’”

David has really been a jerk to God, again and again, despite the endless blessings God continues to give David in his life on earth (sounds familiar).

 Then David said to Nathan,
“I have sinned against the LORD.”
Nathan answered David:
“The LORD on his part has forgiven your sin:
you shall not die.”

And just like that, after David only utters one single sentence, God has already forgiven him.

A Psalm follows.The response is:

“Lord, forgive the wrong I have done.”

And then one of my favorite Gospel readings:

A Pharisee invited Jesus to dine with him,
and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table.
Now there was a sinful woman in the city
who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee.
Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment,
she stood behind him at his feet weeping
and began to bathe his feet with her tears.
Then she wiped them with her hair,
kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself,
“If this man were a prophet,
he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him,
that she is a sinner.”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“Simon, I have something to say to you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
“Two people were in debt to a certain creditor;
one owed five hundred day’s wages and the other owed fifty.
Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both.
Which of them will love him more?”
Simon said in reply,
“The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.”
He said to him, “You have judged rightly.”

Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon,
“Do you see this woman?
When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet,
but she has bathed them with her tears
and wiped them with her hair.
You did not give me a kiss,
but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered.
You did not anoint my head with oil,
but she anointed my feet with ointment.
So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven
because she has shown great love.
But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”
He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The others at table said to themselves,
“Who is this who even forgives sins?”
But he said to the woman,
“Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

This account from the book of Luke is about a woman who is dripping with sin, but Jesus forgives her instantly. This lady comes to Jesus, refusing to be too ashamed of her social status or her recurrent sinning or her poverty or her tears to ask for forgiveness.

And I realize, that in those moments when I hear God’s voice and decide not the answer, I don’t do it because I’m too tired. I do it because I’m ashamed and embarrassed and too annoyed with my inconsistencies. I refuse to listen because I feel guilty.

But, really, perhaps God would rather me weep at his feet and ask for forgiveness for the one hundredth time than pass him by.

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