Bold responses

Daily Reading for March 17 • Monday in Holy Week

The story of the woman anointing the head of Jesus with precious ointment is yet another story of conflict. The woman is immediately despised for her action. The indignant critics condemn her for senseless waste: that stuff of hers should have been donated for the relief of the poor instead of being emptied over Jesus’ head. The voices are pragmatic, moralistic, high-toned. Jesus, with the oil trickling down all over him, springs to her defense. “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me” (Mark 14:6, RSV).

The critics see only a frivolous and meaningless gesture. Jesus experiences it as rich with meaning, gracious, grave, and truthful. She is saluting him magnificently as the one getting ready to die for all. . . .

This woman breaking open her costly flask appears again and again in stories of faith. She has inspired artists in their creation of works that glorify God in wood, stone, paint, gesture, movement, melody, and thread, while the pious sneered that these things were unnecessary, wasteful, impractical, and unspiritual. She has inspired men and women following the Spirit’s call to monastic life, to make adoration their reason for being, when their friends and family complained that they were wasting their lives. She has smiled upon thousands who tend the flame of prayer and love of Jesus in the midst of busy lives, when those around them view their devotion as wasted effort diverting them from achievement and doing good. Her memory has been present like a fragrance in thousands of bold responses to Jesus in the face of condescension and disapproval.

From Martin Smith’s A Season for the Spirit: Readings for the Days of Lent. © 1991, 2004. A Seabury Classic published by Church Publishing, Inc. Used by permission of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY.

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