From Seeds of Trust
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 work 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.” (Mark 14:3-9)
Invited by his friend, “Simon the leper,” shortly before his Passion, Jesus is in Bethany, a village facing Jerusalem. During the meal, a woman comes up to him with some precious ointment and pours it on his head. This waste disturbs the guests. The ointment cost 300 denarii, a good yearly salary for a worker. That amount of money could have helped many poor people.
Jesus does not agree with those who criticize the woman. And yet nobody can doubt his concern for the poor. “Sell your possessions,” he says to those who want to follow him, “and give the money to the poor,” (Luke 12:33). Here, too, he says that sharing with the poor will always be necessary. But he wants people to understand that even the most serious moral commitment is in danger of losing its meaning if efficiency becomes the sole criterion. Jesus approves the fact that the woman forgot to calculate and that she was motivated by her love alone. She certainly went beyond what was reasonable, and yet she was right in pouring the perfume on Jesus. Made attentive by her love for him, the Christ, she was the first to honor his crucified body.
Jesus admires the woman’s act. He says that in her memory, what she did will be told in the whole world! She has done “a good work,” and this could also be translated, “a beautiful work.” The beauty of this deeply human act reflects the beauty of God’s love. God pours out his love for us like this perfume, without calculating or measuring, without conditions. On the eve of his Passion, Christ could recognize himself in this “wasted” ointment. He did not try to save his life; he gave it. “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us,” (Ephesians 5:2).
- Would I have seen the woman’s act as Simon’s guests did, or as Jesus did?
- What helps us to recognize not only the goodness, but also the beauty of God and Christ?
- What can lead us to open our hearts to God and to the poor around us?
Christ, if you ask us, as you did in the gospel, “Do you love me?”, we stammer our reply: “You know that I love you, Christ, perhaps not as I would like to, but I do love you.”