The Unnamed Woman

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was kind of a daddy’s girl, especially when I was a teenager. My dad’s gifts were clear for everybody to see—he was in the pulpit preaching, in the confirmation classroom teaching. He was the gregarious community leader that I aspired to be. In fact, my dad made it easy to experience and know God as Heavenly Father. He was and is a great dad.

And I also have a great mother; it just took me longer to realize it. As I began to appreciate my mother more and to see more and more of her gifts, I had this experience in meditation of God as Heavenly Mother, the more hidden face of God, like the unnamed woman in today’s gospel.

When women appear in the pages of our sacred scripture they are often unnamed. They are in the background, not usually the action figures. And yet, Jesus stands out from the men of his day. He addresses women, time and again. At the well, he offers an unnamed Samaritan woman Living Water. You can probably think of similar examples. And in today’s gospel reading (Luke 7:36-8:3), he goes a step further. He uplifts the unnamed woman as a great example to the rest of us. What she did is so important that this story is in all four gospels, although the contexts differ a little.

In Luke, the unnamed woman is washing Jesus’ feet with her tears. She is crying that much. We have to ask why? Perhaps she intuits that something bad is about to happen. Perhaps she is afraid for Jesus. Or maybe she just feels overwhelming gratitude and love and appreciation for how he helped her.

Even though the disciples rebuke her, Jesus welcomes the gift of her tears. He welcomes the gift of her extravagant gestures to honor him. Not just ordinary water but the tears from her eyes; not just ordinary oil but costly perfumed oil.  And so he commends her, the unnamed, lowly woman, and says that she will be remembered for all time, for what she has done for him. “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven for she loved much.” (Luke 7:47)

So we see, the text is not about what gender you are or how you have sinned. It is about God’s love. It is about gratitude and faith in response to that love. It is about opening up your full heart to that love. And what is Jesus’ response to faith? Jesus blesses the unnamed woman just as he blesses all of us. “Your faith has saved you. Go now in peace.”

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