On this fifteenth week of Pentecost, we hear of yet another woman as part of the collection of Pentecost Gospel’s. She is the sinful woman who found repentance through Christ. (Luke 7:36-50).
As we highlighted last week, the Maronite Pentecost lectionary gives as a typology of women, Brides of the Groom, to inspire us to the Church we are called to be. A Church on a missionary journey who is accompanied and healed by Christ himself.
The sinful woman came to Christ begging for his forgiveness. One of the most beautiful literary techniques used in Syriac literature is that of dialogue. The dialogues usually draws on a moment of tension from the Gospel and then two speakers conduct an argument in alternating verses. One of these is between Satan and the Sinful women. In this stunning dialogue the author draws out, through Satan, the tension he imagined would have been going through the sinful women’s mind in approaching Jesus.
The poem starts with a beautiful introduction in which we are told that God sent his Son clothed in his humanity as the Compassionate doctor who could heal. The Sinful Woman had heard of his healing and knew he was at Simeon the Pharisees house, she had resolved to go to him for forgiveness of her sins. As witness that the early Syriac writers saw this woman as the Church, the woman states to Satan:
I am indeed brazen and impudent,
And debauched men have loved me
But Christ the Bridegroom has betrothed me,
And he has made me holy, to be with Himself
We hear this theme of the Church being the Bride of Christ throughout the Maronite Pentecost liturgy:
Jesus is the faithful Groom
and we are the Church, his Bride.
In the poem, Satan is an externalization of what the writer imagines are the sinful women’s innermost thoughts. The poem highlights the sinful women’s struggles in detaching from her former life and gate crashing the party to meet Jesus. Her worst self and all that is bad about her is being portrayed by Satan who gives her all the reasons to stay away from Jesus, including:
SATAN: I can see that you’ve gone out of your mind,
You don’t know what you are saying.
You’ve never read the Scriptures,
And yet here you are expounding their words!
WOMAN: I can see that you are ashamed,
For the Son of God has condemned you.
Up to today I belonged to you,
But from now on I reject you and your friends.
SATAN: You’d be better off, my girl, if you stayed back
And didn’t go off to Mary’s son.
Perhaps, unbeknown to you, he’s already scowling at you,
And if he sees you he will be angry.
WOMAN: What could be happier than today
If I go and approach Mary’s Son?
I be better off even if HE killed me,
For I’d escape from you, the enemy of everyone.
The Gospel also highlights Simon the Pharisee was outraged that the Sinful woman touched Jesus and we hear Jesus say to him:
Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet.You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
Our faith is demonstrated by our actions and not our condemnation. Here we would like to address something relevant to our times.
Social media can be used as a wonderful resource for evangelisation, however used incorrectly, it can also drive people away from the Church. Our Maronite Church can reach out in a very unique way to those who may not know Christ. People are not going to be attracted to a negative Church, one that is unhappy and focused on consistently debating and judging. People are not going to be attracted to an angry mob. The Church is not going to be attractive if the people in it are morally outraged, full of self-righteousness or judgemental like Simon was.
Before you share, post or comment, think about the overall objective and whether it will bring those in need of God’s mercy to the Church. The dialogue between Satan and the Sinful woman highlights the voices that might drive people away. The need to win an unnecessary argument or correct in the short-term can drive others away. People are looking for something that gives them peace, not a fight. For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. 1Co 14:33
Observers seeing people confusion and chaos will not find the Church attractive. A discussion that descends into argument, heated debate and attacks will not bring anyone to Christ. There are times when it is actually prudent to say nothing.
Collectively we are part of the Church. How one of us behaves can have an impact on the Church as a whole. People who may be seeking Christ could be watching. The faith is not an ideology, it is a living example and we are witnesses to it.
Do not share things you can not verify yourself or believe them just because a ‘friend’ told you so. Next time you want to post, comment or share, think about the bigger picture. Think about whether it is necessary and whether it will bring you or others closer to Christ.
We shall conclude with the same prayer of the dialogue between the Sinful woman and Satan.
‘O Son of God, who opened Your mouth
And forgave the Sinful woman her sins
Forgive us our sins too, just as you did her
For we have sinned just as she did.
And as the Sinful Woman was forgiven
Because she kissed your feet in Simeon’s house
So you forgive Your Church
Which, at the altar consumes Your Body and Blood.’