She stood trembling at the edge of the room, knowing that if she did not soon gather her courage together, she never would. She was still half- hidden from sight standing by a pillar, a veiled woman standing in the shadows, retreating from the judgemental sight of men. She knew who she was, better than any of them did, and she knew what she had done: the sordid couplings that chased the illusion of glamour and excitement, but always fell short of what they promised, the descent into shame, and the terrible place she had found herself in, when glamour and illusion had departed, laughing scornfully at her as they fled, and she found herself alone, used, degraded, despised, and with no way of existence that did not involve even further degradation. There was no bitter name they could have called her that she had not already called herself. Shame was like an acid that had eaten into her bones and left her weak and incapable. Any movement of her will had simply led to more grating pain. It was easier to be numb, to be hardened, to live from one spitefully given coin to the next. Oh, the stories she could tell of some of the men right here in this room! But who would ever believe her testimony anyway?
But then she had seen Him, the Nazarene preacher, the man who was different. She had hidden herself at the edges of the crowd, and listened, again and again. It had not been easy. Sometimes she had needed to walk away for a while because his words had re-opened wounds which she thought had long since died. No one had ever told her how painfully hope can come to the hopeless. But she always came back for more; it was like learning to breathe clean air or drink sweet water.
And now she had come to the Pharisee’s house, because she knew he would be there, and she wanted him to know how his words had changed her. She fixed her eyes on him, and as she did, her fear of everyone else faded away. There were banqueters, and servants and as always, a heap of beggarly onlookers. But none of them mattered. There was only herself and Jesus. He looked up, looked her straight in the eye, and, overwhelmed by what she saw there, she ran straight to his feet. She pushed her veil out of the way, and fell sobbing at his feet, overcome by wonder and gratitude. She took out the little jar of perfume, the most valuable thing she owned, broke the seal and poured it out recklessly, prodigally, all over his feet. She wiped them with her own hair. She could the gasps of shock and outrage around the room, but she no longer cared what those hypocrites thought. She looked up into his eyes, and it was as if the love she found there created a shield to protect her from their cruel judgement. The world could only offer her condemnation, but he had given her something far more precious. He had given her forgiveness.