Anointing at Bethany
While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head…. And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her She has performed a good service for me…. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”
Mark 14:3, 5b-6, 8-9
Here we have one courageous woman! She took a deliberate, well-planned action that defied every tradition of her culture. She understood what Jesus was saying about his coming death. She was convinced that he was the Messiah. She gave Jesus two gifts: a gift of love and compassion and a gift of proclamation and prophecy.
This unnamed woman made an unacceptable act a very appropriate way of declaring Jesus the Messiah. She took a fresh approach and did what she could to show her love and devotion. She knew she could not keep Jesus alive; she knew she was voiceless in her society; so she did what she could and succeeded.
This woman is not often remembered. But she can be a model of commitment, of faith, of willingness to risk, of living a life of love in the midst of the pain and hurt of the world. We too are called to take appropriate actions in light of the Gospel in new and creative ways. Are we committed to doing so?
There was a woman once, who came
to bring a gift, most highly-priced
and poured it out, with her whole heart,
a precious perfume for the Christ.
For she had sensed his Spirit power –
the spendthrift love that cost the earth,
and she had seen his focus clear,
who gave a woman lasting worth.*
Shirley Erena Murray, Every Day in Your Spirit
(Carol Stream, IL: Hope Publishing Co., 1996), 36
What appropriate actions am I taking as a disciple of Jesus? Am I using new or “acceptable” strategies? Am I taking risks, carefully planning, and sharing love and compassion through my actions of faith and justice?
Joyce D. Sohl has been Laywoman-in-Residence since 2009 as a full-time volunteer. She retired as CEO of United Methodist Women in 2004. She is the author of 4 books, a teacher, retreat leader, writer and non-professional musician. Here at the Center her work is in the area of Spirituality & the Arts with such programs as Tuesdays in the Chapel, Vespers & All That Jazz, Poet’s Corner, and quarterly retreats and art exhibits.