Lenten Prayer with St Cuthbert – Day 11

Somewhat optimistically Cuthbert and companions set off on a winter’s sailing trip without provisions, and come unstuck. It seems that Cuthbert is not a great planner; there are several of these stories where he runs out of provisions while on a journey. Rather, he lives in the moment and trusts God for the rest. And if that means he goes hungry, he uses the opportunity to fast and pray. The fact that he spends so much time praying and singing the psalms (he would have known the entire psalter by heart) meant that his mind would be saturated with ‘God-thinking’ all the time, or, as St Paul puts it in his first letter to Thessalonica, “praying without ceasing.” It results in a very different outlook on life.

The Gospel story is one of those that deeply attracts us to Jesus both for his compassion and his exposure of hypocrisy. But we mustn’t forget the scandal that lies behind it. If the woman was a hardened prostitute or ‘sex-worker’, what turned her? And what made her think that Jesus would have compassion on her, unless he had already spent much time in the company of women. We get other hints of it, such as at the Crucifixion in Matthew’s Gospel, where there was a great crowd of women who had followed him from Galilee.

The Pharisee didn’t actually love little; according to Jesus, he didn’t love at all. In other words, he had zero concept of his own sin. The only reason he invited Jesus for dinner was to see whether he was what he claimed. But Jesus’ rebuke seems to have hit its mark. The fact that the Pharisee is named thrice in the passage, ‘Simon’, strongly suggests that he became one of Jesus’ disciples, at least after the Resurrection, if not before, and was known to Luke. The particulars in the story are unique to Luke, so perhaps it was even he that told him the story.

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