A friend is writing a lengthy analysis of Luke 7.36-50, the story of Simon the Pharisee, a symposium he hosted, Jesus his guest, and a Woman who was a sinner in the city. As I have read his daily drafts, another direction of interpretation started to form in my mind, and it goes something like this:
Most of us are Simon, and it is unlikely that we will ever not be Simon. If we receive Jesus at all, it is most often in a casual sort of way that is either reserved for an hour or so on Sunday morning, or as an exaggerated emotionalism that is a bit hard to take seriously. To be harsh about it, they are both pretty superficial. We see and hear the lessons of the Woman who was a sinner in the city from arm’s length with an appropriate degree of interested disinterest. After all, she is really not the sort with whom we associate in our normal daily lives. We may be aware of her, take pity on her, and even contribute a few dollars to some organization that may help her, but she is essentially from a world other than our own.
To be sure, some of us are the Woman, living in fear of others and disgust with ourselves, always finding ourselves being confronted by the condemning and condescending Simon. But I think most of us are more Simon than the Woman. That is true in the ordinary sense of daily life, but it is also true in a much more threatening way, an almost Jungian way.
The entire pericope is, at least in part, about finding the conditions needed for integration centered on Jesus, and it is only by Jesus’ presence that integration might be achieved. There must be a form of integration between Simon and the Woman in order for each of them to stand in holy relationship with each other. There is a wholeness of self that cannot be otherwise achieved. Whether intentionally or not, Luke has made it clear that the story is not so much about Simon and the Woman as it is about you and me, and that both Simon and the Woman reside in us, the symposium resides within us, and our own healing to wholeness requires the holy integration of Simon and the Woman within us. The odd thing is that it appears that all of the Woman that needs for healing to wholeness, all that she needs that is of Simon, has been given her through Jesus alone. Simon himself has not (yet) shared in the integration, thus, for the moment, making him the greater and more broken outsider. But Jesus has not left the symposium and the conditions have been clearly set for Simon also to be healed and made whole by the integration of that part of him who is the Woman into a healthy and holy self-relationship.
Of course, the other guests are an obstacle to that, and we well know who they are in our own internal symposium.