Luke 7: 36-50
A Pharisee invited him 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 days’ 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; hence, 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.”
Niggling is such a good word, defined as: bothersome or persistent especially in a petty or tiresome way.
I think of it as persistent, somewhat undefined, thought demanding in a tiresome way, particularly when there is an idea for a quilt is right there and I can’t quite see it. But it’s demanding that I think about it, and think about it, think about it, and think about it. Then there’s thoughts that niggle – conversations I want to have, things that I said that I’m not thrilled with, things I should have said, that one area where the stitching on a quilt could be better. The thing about this idea for a quilt is I have NO idea what it is. None. Zip. Zero. Zilch. No idea. And yet, there it sits demanding my attention. Taunting me.
Eventually the quilting idea will present itself, complete with details. My quilt gut says I’ll need to be somewhere, experience the feels, see something, that will show me what that idea is so I can pursue it with reckless abandon.
This morning after Mass I stopped in the chapel to continue praying and read a bit more before heading home. Recently Jennifer Fulwiler’s One Beautiful Dream – The rollicking tale of family chaos, personal passions, and saying yes to them both arrived in the mail last week. I thought, and rightly so, that this would make for good reading. It did. And I have NEVER laughed so hard in church. Ever. Like shoulders shaking, snorting kind of laughing whilst reading the “Beer Pong Playdate” when Jennifer met Hallie Lord. To say I was grateful I was alone in the chapel is something of an understatement.
Joy is a fruit of the spirit, after all.
The title for the Scripture today has niggled at me for a long time. The Pardon of the Sinful Woman. Okay she screwed up, she’s repentant and remorseful and our Lord forgives her, offering those words we hear in Confession, “go in peace”. As oft happens our focus is on the woman however Jesus has a very frank discussion with the Pharisee about his own actions, or lack thereof. It’s easy to miss because of the woman in tears, anointing Jesus’ feet, kissing them, wiping them with her hair. The first clue that something else is going on here is the Pharisee’s “if he knew what sort of woman she was” yep, here we go. He’s casting stones, all the while his heart is filled with pride because the great Rabbi is in his house having dinner with him. And the Rabbi does what the Rabbi does, teach, and forgive. Wow. The Pharisee, once again, misses the point of the whole exchange.
I miss the point sometimes. The point that my pride stands in the way of personal and spiritual relationships. Pride stands in the way of seeing great beauty. Pride stands in the way of accepting help, or encouragement, or constructive criticism. There is a difference between pride in doing a job, a work of art, making a quilt, writing a story well, and the Pride of heart/mind that refuses opportunities to grow. The Pride that prevents us from taking the steps God wants us to, from practicing, from trying new thread, from getting the machine that will help us improve our skills, from listening to the teacher when we’re in class.
In this reading from Luke there is pride and humility, arrogance, and meekness, haughtiness and gratitude, there is welcome, and welcome, but here are the limits. Pride prevents us from entering more deeply into a relationship with Jesus; humbleness allows us to enter more fully into that relationship. Pride prevents us from doing our best work; humbleness allows us to see the work as our best in this moment.
Creator of all things guide my heart to you, allow me to see the beauty in Your created world. Allow me, in your great love, to enter into the gift of creativity you have given me. Help me to accept help, and encouragement and to learn from each work I am privileged to make. Inspire me to better work, comfort me when overwhelmed and dispirited, to practice even when I think I don’t need it. To listen and see when ideas are niggling at the edge, and not quite ready to enter into the work Amen.