Year of Mercy: Extravagant Love

In addition to the two parables that Pope Francis cites in his writing, a supplemental resource entitled ‘Parables of Mercy’ (published by Our Sunday Visitor) explores five more.  Today, we look at Luke 7:36-50, the story Jesus told to explain a woman’s extravagant love to the Pharisee who thought it was excessive.

In essence Jesus said that the more we are aware of God’s forgiveness, the more extravagant our love will be.  The woman was an open book when it came to her need for forgiveness, and having been forgiven by Jesus, she literally poured out her love on his feet as she simultaneously bathed them with her tears of gratitude.

By contrast, the Pharisee had not given much thought to his sinfulness or his need for forgiveness, having concentrated his time and energy identifying “those sinners.”  Consequently, his love was small and largely limited to whomever he deemed worthy to receive it.  In fact, he had parceled love out in small portions to Jesus that very evening–and offered only contempt to the woman.

Mercy does not flow from a forgiveness-starved heart. A religion that leads us to spend our time “naming sinners” but not ever getting around to naming ourselves as sinners will deplete the well of love, replacing it with the throat-choking sand of self-righteousness.

Pope Francis, like Jesus, spends a lot of time with people whom the world calls “sinners” but whom God calls beloved children.  He does this so that he might never forget that he too is a sinner and so that the streams of mercy will never cease to flow from his life into the lives of others.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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