A sex trade worker suddenly appears in the home of a prominent religious leader, just as he and Jesus are sitting down – well, lying down, actually – to dinner. The woman begins weeping, breaks open a jar of expensive perfume, and bathesJesus’ feet with it. Her tears also soak his feet and she dries them with her hair.The religious leader is indignant and Jesus responds with question about forgiveness and gratitude.
Who is more thankful, Jesus asks, the person with many sins forgiven, or the person with only a few? She has been forgiven much, he says, so she loves much.
And I’m thinking, ‘Is that how it works? We love Jesus because he forgives us?’ Because if that’s the case then our relationship with God will forever be based on our failings. If every moment of our relationship – our love of God – requires us to re-iterate our list of failings… Well, that can’t be healthy, can it? Is that what God wants – for us to continually wallow in the mire of our own sin so we can continually acknowledge how great he is?
I think something else is going on here. I think that Jesus might have been the first man who truly saw her, who ever truly heard her, who ever recognized who she was as a person. He might have been the first man who didn’t want something from her. His forgiveness isn’t a pronouncement that the slate has been wiped clean, that her criminal record has been erased. Instead, it’s a recognition that she has value, that she has worth, that she is loved and treasured. I think that for the woman at the center of this story, gratitude represents a form of healing, an expression of wholeness. It represents the validation that – no matter what has happened in her life – she is worthy of love.
Gratitude is an expression of healing. It’s the transformation of pain and suffering to life and hope. And, at it’s core, gratitude is a recognition that someone else has validated our worth, acknowledged our value and shared their desire to be with us. In gratitude, we return that love