The words “What would Jesus do?” or “W.W.J.D.,” because of the recent surge in their popular use, can almost sound too cliché to be taken seriously. Yet, as I continue my work in post-abortion ministry, I find myself time and time again turning to the Gospels to find out how best to serve this important ministry. I am so thankful each and every time that, through Jesus’ example, I can find the best way to lead women who are suffering after an abortion and men who encouraged or allowed abortion down the road of healing, bringing them close to the Lord.
Within the detailed account in St. Luke’s Gospel of the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet, if we look closely enough we can see a pattern for what to do and what not to do in post-abortion ministry. In this wonderful story, Jesus has been invited to dine at Simon the Pharisee’s house. In the midst of the meal, a woman with a reputation for being a sinner comes in with an expensive jar of perfume and begins to anoint Jesus’ feet, wash them with her tears, and dry them with her hair.
Immediately Jesus challenges Simon and all present to consider the woman and not her reputation, status or sins: “Do you see this woman?” If we are not careful we can be like Simon the Pharisee and see only the sins of those around us. This temptation doubles if the sin in another person is considered great.
Most likely this is the last thing a woman who has had an abortion needs for she already knows that she is a sinner and that her sins are great. Unknowingly she maybe already be punishing herself for the sin she has committed. From what I have read and observed, there seems to be a greater tendency in women than in men to identify themselves with their sins. It is more likely for a woman to say, “I have done a bad thing and, therefore, I must be bad and I deserve to be treated as such.”
This can be hard for men to understand as it seems that we are capable of separating ourselves more easily from our sins — maybe too easily. The truth of the matter is that it takes a lot of courage for a person who has had an abortion to come forward and ask for help.
It can be very damaging if they are met with name-calling and hostility instead of with love and mercy. Simply imagine yourself in the place of the woman in the story. Who would you rather run to? Jesus, who is seeing your entire person, or Simon the Pharisee, who is just judging you on your past mistakes?
The second lesson to be learned from this story is that sorrow for sins can take on very strange forms. If, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we truly imagine ourselves present at that dinner table, we begin to realize how shocking the woman’s actions are. She is, first, an intruder in a place where people do not think she belongs. Second, she is carrying around a jar of expensive fragrant ointment. And third, she is weeping so much that it is obvious to others that she is able to wash Jesus’ feet with her tears.
In post-abortion mentality, women really feel that they do not belong in God’s presence because of their sins. It is important for us to let them know that they are welcome wherever Jesus is, for Jesus did not come into the world to condemn us but rather that we might have life. The woman in the story carries with her a jar of fragrant oil, which for me symbolizes a deep love for others and for God.
Who knows the specialness of the human life better than those who are coming to grips with an abortion? I have discovered a real sense of wanting to protect others from the pain that they are feeling. This sometimes leads them to be great advocates for the pro-life movement and sometimes, unfortunately, it leads them to be great supporters of the pro-choice movement where they mistakenly place their protective efforts. It is important, I think, to affirm their specialness and to allow them to see how God can bring good out of any evil.
Finally, the woman at Jesus’ feet weeps, and this is so hard to do in our society because it is viewed by the world as a sign of weakness. Yet it is only when we are weak that we allow Christ to enter into our lives. This woman in her sadness sought out Jesus.
Despite having killed John the Baptist, Herod made no real attempt to see Jesus even though the Gospels tells us that Herod desired to do so (Lk 9:9). Yet, amazingly, Herod never did see Jesus until Jesus’ trial, which makes me think that Herod never tried too hard. This woman, though, found Jesus.
The third lesson is that Jesus’ forgiveness of the woman and His willingness to forgive those who have participated in abortion is not only good news for those who have participated in abortion, but for all because it shows how truly strong God’s love for us is. Where sin separates us — as in Simon’s feeling that there should be some sort of separation between the righteous and sinners — Jesus shows us that God’s love and forgiveness keep us united.
The fourth and final lesson is that there is no room in post-abortion ministry for being self-righteous and judgmental. Elsewhere Jesus tells us that there is much rejoicing over one repentant sinner than over 99 righteous people (Lk 15:1-7). We see this clearly today in post-abortion healing. There is great joy that comes from seeing women and men accept God’s great mercy after having committed such a great sin. If God’s mercy can bring healing to those situations, how much more can he bring healing to the sinful and hurtful situations in my life? So it is with an attitude of joy and gratitude that we minister to the post-abortion community, for we truly see that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.
FATHER PASTORIUS writes from St. Louis, Mo.