Day 22 - Challenge

A woman with a stoneware vase/pot

Day 22 - listen here

 

Mark 14:1–9

Now it was the Passover and Unleavened Bread after two days. And the high priests and the scribes were trying to see how they could arrest him by stealth and kill him. For they were saying, ‘Not at the festival, lest there be a popular riot.’

And while he was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, while he lay down to dine, there came a woman. She had an alabaster jar of myrrh, pistachio-nard, genuine and very expensive. She broke the alabaster jar and poured it over his head. And there were some people getting quietly indignant: ‘To what end has this waste of myrrh taken place? For this myrrh could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and given to the poor.’ And they snorted indignantly at her. But Jesus said, ‘Leave her be. Why do you give her hassle? She has worked a good work in [regard to] me. For it is always the case that you have the poor with you; and whenever you want you can be bountiful to them. But me you do not always have. She has done what her resources allowed; she took an early opportunity to anoint my body for burial. But Amen, I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, even what she has done will be spoken in remembrance of her.’

Reflection

At this point, Jesus is on the brink of the last week of his life. He is looking into an orchestrated trap, a dead-end of suffering, and she at the unavoidable loss of someone she clearly loves very much. Words seem useless, and so she expresses it all in a gesture, only to have people dismiss that as well: it’s the wrong thing to do, it’s a waste.

But what Jesus sees is the woman’s outpouring, without calculation, of what she had, like the woman who puts two copper coins in the Temple treasury. For Jesus it’s not about oil or money, quantity or quality, but loving self-gift even beyond what is reasonable, effective and necessary. The woman’s action becomes part of the gospel because it proclaims what Jesus himself is doing in his passion and death.

Many of us will have the agony of watching someone we love facing their ‘hour’, whether it takes the form of physical or mental illness, misfortune or self-destructive chaos. This woman is the patron saint of all those who overcome the sense of uncertainty and hopelessness and the voices of criticism, and choose to ‘waste’ their love as Jesus does: ‘She has done what her resources allowed.’

Painting of table, Christ sitting at table and woman on floor by his feet with pot of ointment

Prayer

Lord,

I am a precious container of love,

genuine and costly.

When it is time to pour it out,

don’t let me get too lost in calculation,

or worry about wasting it.

Don’t let my desire to love others

get drowned out by the voices that tell me it’s pointless.

Give me the courage to break the jar,

and let me hear you say that what I offer is enough,

because it loves you.

 

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