Feast of St Robert Bellarmine (see below)
1st Reading: 1 Timothy 4:12-16
Timothy is urged to exercise the ministry entrusted to him by the laying on of hands
Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I arrive, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhorting, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders. Put these things into practice, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.
Gospel: Luke 7:36-50
A parable commending the woman who wept at Jesus’ feet
One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. And 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. 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 kind of woman this is who is touching him — that she is a sinner.”Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied, “Speak.”
“A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” 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. 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.” Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “our faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Saint Robert Bellarmine, bishop and doctor of the Church.
Roberto Bellarmino (1542-1621) from Montepulciano, Italy, became a Jesuit and studied and lectured at the University of Leuven in Flanders, where he promoted the theology of Thomas Aquinas. Later, as a a Cardinal in Rome, he spoke up in defence of the imprisoned Galileo, and was one of the most important intellectual figures in the Counter-Reformation.
Ministry for the Gospel
In preaching the message of Christ, Paul reflects on the church and on the qualities needed in its leaders. He takes an encouraging line in his words to people like Timothy, who felt so diffident in offering guidance to others. His advice to Timothy is a classic of avuncular encouragement. Paul assures the younger man of his genuine talents, appreciates his high ideals, and assures him of his ability to teach and preach and lead the community in prayer.
In the Gospel we see how Jesus can be stern with the proud, but tender and protective towards the humble who repent. Jesus grounds his teaching in the parable of God’s generous initiative in loving and forgiving. In this provocative story, the person with the heavier load of sin seems to be loved more by God than the other person with lighter debts. This can seem unjust, until we remember that pride is a worse sin than sexual excess. But there is still hope for the proud, if the woman can be forgiven this easily. All authority of the church is under the ideals of the Gospel, with encouragement and esteem for the young, with concern for the repentant, but reminding the proud and self-righteous of the centrality of God’s love.
We would not intrude on a meal unless we were invited to it. However, the woman in today’s gospel intrudes at the table without invitation. She did so because she wanted to perform a service for Jesus, a service of hospitality and love. Although she was not an invited guest she showed Jesus the hospitality that his host should have shown him but failed to show him. She gave Jesus this extravagant service out of a sense of deep gratitude to Jesus for what she had already received from him. She had already experienced God’s forgiving love in and through Jesus, and such was her gratitude for this gift of love that she wanted to offer love in return. The woman serves as an image of all our lives as followers of Jesus. Like her, we too have received great graces from the Lord, as Saint John says in the first chapter of his gospel, “from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” Like her, this sense of having been abundantly graced by the Lord moves us to make a return to the Lord. Having experienced the Lord’s great love for us, his merciful love, we are moved to show him our love in return. We are inspired to serve him as he has served us. The woman in the gospel shows us both how to receive from the Lord and how to give to him in return, our offering of thanksgiving.