When at church, instead of looking at other sinners, we should look at ourselves. Looking in the mirror, we should ask, “Why has such a terrible person come into such a holy place? I don’t even deserve to be here!”
A policeman stops two cars. He gives a ticket to the first driver, for driving too fast. He gives a ticket to the second driver for the same reason. The second driver says, «Please don’t give me a ticket! The other driver was going even faster than me!»
Two men steal money from their employer. The first man steals several million Rubles. The second man steals only a few thousand Rubles. He pleads with the judge, «Please don’t send me to jail! The other person stole a lot more than I did!
Of course, these are foolish responses. If you did something wrong, then it makes no sense to focus on what other people have done wrong. Even if their sins are greater than yours, it does not reduce the penalty that you deserve to receive for your own wrongdoing.
In the seventh chapter of Luke's Gospel, Jesus talks with two sinners. One sinner, a Pharisee, invites Jesus into his home for a meal. The other sinner, a woman, washes the feet of Jesus with her tears, and dries them with her hair. She kisses His feet, and anoints them with an expensive, fragrant oil.
The Pharisee is offended, because this woman has a bad reputation. Everyone in town knows that she is a sinner. He says to himself, “If Jesus was a prophet, then he would know what sort of woman is touching him.” By saying this, he reveals his unbelief. Jesus didn’t respond the way he expected, so he did not believe in him.
This man was not wrong about the woman. It is true that she was a sinner. There are many things which she had done wrong. But he made a fatal error. Instead of focusing on the woman’s sins, he should have been focusing on his own. He correctly saw that the woman was a sinner, but he did not see that he, too, was also a sinner.
Instead of asking, “How can Jesus allow this sinful woman to touch Him?”, he should have asked,
“How can Jesus enter my home and eat dinner with a sinful person like me?”
If he had responded in this way, then Jesus would have forgiven his sins, just as He forgave the woman’s sins.
The Pharisee thought he was a good person. He did not think of himself as a sinner, so he did not find forgiveness. And because he did not find forgiveness, his love for Christ was very small. He gave Jesus no water, no kiss, and no fragrant oil.
The woman knew she was a sinner. She did not deny it. And she knew that Jesus had forgiven all her sin. Her eyes were overflowing with tears, because her heart was overflowing with gratitude and love for Christ. As a result, she was willing to give Jesus her most valuable possession. She could have sold the alabaster jar of fragrant oil for a large sum of money. But instead, she gave it to Christ.
The Pharisee assumed that he was righteous, and that the woman was sinful. But the truth was quite the opposite. He was the sinner, and the woman was righteous. Jesus had forgiven the woman for her past, so her sins were completely gone.
How do we respond, when we see a drunk man or a promiscuous woman walk into church?
We may be tempted to look at them with disgust, saying, “Why do such terrible people come into such a holy place? Why don’t they just stay outside?”
If we respond this way, then we are hypocrites just like the Pharisee. We see the sin of others, but we do not see our own.
Instead of looking at the drunk and the loose woman, we should look at ourselves. We should consider our greed, our laziness, and our sharp tongues. We should consider how we seek entertainment, instead of studying the Scriptures and the writings of the Saints. We should consider how we indulge in pleasures, while neglecting alms, prayer, and work for the sake of Christ’s Kingdom.
Instead of looking at the drunk and the loose woman, we should look at ourselves. Looking in the mirror, we should ask, “Why has such a terrible person come into such a holy place? I don’t even deserve to be here!”
Then, with joy, we should recognize that Christ has forgiven our sins. Just as Christ has forgiven the sinful woman, so He has also forgiven us.
Let us respond to His forgiveness the same way that the woman did. When we think about Him, let our eyes overflow with tears of gratitude. When we see an icon of Christ, let us greet Him with a holy kiss. With our alms for the poor, let us give Jesus our very best. And with our hands, let us work to serve Him, and to build His Kingdom.
Jesus said, "to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little." Brothers and sisters, we have been forgiven much. Therefore, let us love much.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Fr. Joseph Gleason
Read this homily in Russian: Иисус встречает двух грешников и прощает одного
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