Good Morning! And Happy April 15th!
The 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. But some were there who said to one another in anger, ‘Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.’ And they scolded her. But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have 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.’
Jesus and the disciples would go back each evening to Bethany to rest. On one of those evenings, he was dining at the home of a man named Simon, who was known as Simon the Leper. It makes one wonder if this was one of those whom Jesus had healed, who had resumed his place in the community, his life restored. It is an interesting question, but one for which Mark gives us no answer.
As Jesus was sitting there (reclining) at the table, a woman came in with an alabaster jar of a very expensive perfumed ointment, or oil, and she broke the jar and poured the oil on his head. The others at the dinner are shocked – this was a costly gift! Look at how it was wasted! Why, this perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor! And they scolded the woman.
But Jesus stopped them, his heart going out to the woman. “Leave her alone,” he said, “Why do you trouble her?” She had given what she had, she had given extravagantly, for him. There is a time for extravagance, a time to give the best we have to Christ. This woman, Jesus said, was anointing him for his burial; while the rest of them denied what was coming, the one who was also willing to give sacrificially understood.
Of course, his phrase about always having the poor with us is often mis-used, as an excuse not to give to the poor, as if in the end it makes no difference. But that is not at all what Jesus means. He is saying there is a time for both – care for the poor; but also, honor the Christ. He would be with them only a little longer; they should show their love and care for him during that time. And who among us does not have someone for whom we should show love and care during the time that we have them?
A time for extravagance, a time for loving – these are moments that must be seized, times that must be lived. In Israel, at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, there is a large flat stone, where it is believed they laid Jesus. People from around the world bring scented oils and spread them on the stone. We blessed those who traveled with us with oil from the stone.