Tuesday, April 11, 2017

What She Has Done Will Be Told in Remembrance of Her

On this Tuesday of Holy Week, I've reflecting on how in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and John, the passion narrative begins with the reading of the account of a woman anointing the Lord's head or feet.  The anointing, with costly perfumed oil, scandalizes the onlookers (including the apostles), because of the expense of the oil and the uninvited intrusion of the woman into the gathering.

I think too of how on the other end of the narrative, other women go to the tomb with perfumed oil to anoint the body of Jesus in the tomb (and these 'myrrhbearing women' discover that Jesus has risen and the tomb is empty.)

Jesus, in Matthew's gospel responds to the angry criticism by saying, "Why do you trouble the woman?  She has done me a good service for me. ...By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial."

But then he goes on to tell them: "Truly I tell, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her."  Which leaves me pondering this: perhaps the woman who anoints Jesus' head with oil is proclaiming in an unmistakable way that he is truly the Messiah, the Christos, the Anointed One of God.

Those whose responsibility it would have been to have proclaimed Jesus the Messiah, that is to say, the religious authorities, not only fail to make such a proclamation, but in all of the passion narratives, condemn him as a false Messiah.  By way of contrast, this anonymous woman, not from a position of knowledge or authority, perceives Jesus rightly and like the prophet Samuel, sees beyond appearances and anoints the Son of David with the oil of gladness.

During this week Christians remember how this Messiah would die a shameful and wretched death at the hands of the Romans (which would have confirmed for allies and opponents alike that he was definitely not the Anointed.   One of God!) Yet even in this, her anointing of him in anticipation of his death and burial, is itself a paradoxical proclamation that he is the Messiah who will suffer and empty himself completely out of love.

Perhaps, it is that this woman, because her love for him, was able to see clearly the One who is Love Incarnate and boldly act to anoint him in this way.  I wonder too, if we are only able to recognize the Anointed One who is present among us in so many distressing disguises, when we are able to see them with the eyes of love?

Will the ways in which we anoint Christ in need and in distress with the extravagant and costly oil of compassion, mercy and kindness, be told in remembrance of us, "wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world"?

May it be so.

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