This is a remarkable story to meditate on during this Holy Week leading up to the Easter events. We do not know the name of this woman. But she has a knowledge of Jesus that is beyond words. She can only express her love and her faith in action. Those who witness what she has done are flabbergasted by what appears to be a waste of expensive oils and perfumes. But she, moved by a profound faith in and love for Jesus, anoints his head liberally. Does she sense more deeply than even some of the Apostles what is drawing nigh for Jesus?
Jesus meets the arguments of those who complain with a gently turning the argument toward what she has done for him. Someone complains that these perfumes and oils could have been sold for 300 days wages and the money be given to the poor. Jesus responds saying, “Let her alone. Why do you make trouble for her? She has done what she could. She has done good things for me” (verse 6). Then he adds a curious remark, “The poor you will always have with you, and whenever you wish you can take care of them. (verse 7). He is telling them that they will only have him with them for a brief time. He is getting us to reflect on who he is, and what he is doing for us. This really give us a sense of how valuable these ointments and perfumes really were, yet this woman counts them as nothing in comparison to honoring and serving the Lord in this simple way. We can also get the sense that these expensive perfumes and oils were used principally for the burial of the dead.
What this woman does is what we should do. Jesus should be as important to us as he was to her. Do we really see who he is? Do we really understand his meaning to our lives and to the lives of those we live with? How deeply do we understand what he has done for us? If we did, would we not be doing everything we could to honor him, to praise him with all of our being? How often do we put material things before him? Do we sometimes get caught up in worrying more about material concerns than in doing the more important things that Jesus calls us to do with our lives.
This woman, in her own simple way, was proclaiming the Gospel through her humble service to the the Lord who was before her. Jesus gives us a sense of how important her actions were toward him when he says of her, “Amen, amen, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed to the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her” (verse 9). We are to see in her our own calling. We are to see Jesus in every person we know and meet and to serve them as this woman served him. This is the proclamation of the gospel in action.
Lord, Help us to see you in all, especially in the suffering poor. Give us the graces we need to be your good and faithful servants in all of our dealings with others. May our actions and words be nothing less than the proclamation of the gospel. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!
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