I would remind you, brethren, in what terms I preached to you the gospel, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold it fast, unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God which is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
Give thanks to the Lord for he is good,
for his love has no end.
Let the sons of Israel say:
"His love has no end." (R./)
The Lord's right hand has triumphed;
his right hand raised me up.
I shall not die, I shall live
and recount his deeds. (R./)
You are my God, and I thank you;
O my God, I praise you.
I will thank you for you have given answer
and you are my saviour (R./)
One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner."
Jesus spoke up and said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." "Teacher," he replied, "Speak." "A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?" Simon answered, "I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt."
Jesus said to him, "You have judged rightly." Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little." Then he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?"
Each of us has chances and opportunities, great and small, to be ministers, to serve others as fellow human beings. Whether it be in ordained ministry, or the work of teachers, nurses counselors, shop assistants or civil servants, or just the goodwill of kindly relatives and good neighbours, it all counts. There are so many ways of serving the needs of others, but Paul counts as vital the handing of of the faith. He describes his own keen sense of vocation: "I handed on to you first of all what I myself received" and then summarizes the core message, that Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose again. In some sense, we can all share that ministry, by fostering faith and hope and love.
The ministry of the word is for handing on the message of Jesus, and belief in the salvation he won for us all. Paul's own credentials are reliable, even though he freely admits that he is the least of the apostles, hardly deserving that very name. We need a similarly humble spirit, never lording it over others but counting it a privelege to serve them.
Jesus spoke sternly to the proud and the self-righteous, but was gentle with the humble and repentant. In the parable of the two debtors he taught that while our heavenly Father is ever loving, a forgiving spirit is also required in us. The person with the heavier load of sin seems to be nearer to God than the one with smaller debts. This can seem unjust unless we see that arrogance is a greater sin than excess of libido.
At first glance the woman, a public sinner in the town, must be the one who owes the five hundred coins, and the Pharisee the one who owes only fifty coins. There is still hope for the proud, if the public sinner can be forgiven so readily forgiven. We must treat each another in this spirit, encouraging the young, showing concern for the sinner, and firmness in the face of self-righteous pride.