She Has Anointed Me Beforehand

"She has anointed me beforehand for my burial, and let me tell you this, wherever the Gospel is proclaimed, this will be told and she will be remembered."

Now that he has entered the city, the shadows around Jesus begin to deepen, and the darkness to curdle and thicken. And this woman, clear sighted and bold, sees what is happening when others do not. Not only does she see it, but she acts. She acts out a prophetic sign by anointing Jesus during the feast, when everyone is on a high and not seeing the shadows. Jesus declares that it is for his burial, and so it is. But oil is also for healing, and that meaning lies under the surface, awaiting the revelation of its significance.

The woman acts extravagantly. Not only does she bring this very expensive oil, gourmet oil from a foreign country, but she breaks the bottle. She acts in an extravagance of devotion and worship. It is to this extravagance that Jesus' other followers react. They think that this was a foolish waste. The money could have been better spent on the relief of the poor. But Jesus rebukes them. They are shorter sighted than the woman. They do not see which way the wind is blowing.

Or are they denying it, refusing to see what they know will happen? These men are after all pretty strong on denial; later in the week they will all run off rather than face what happens. Only the faithful women avoid the denial, the women who walk with Jesus all the way to the cross and stand mourning there to the end.

Have you ever experienced a time of deep sadness or pain? What did you want then from others? Did you want attempts to to fix it for you, to calm you down or explain away your pain? Did you want frowns of displeasure telling you to shape up and stiff upper lip your sadness? Or anger at your sadness, telling you that the other person doesn't want your sadness shared? Did you want a justification of your sadness, or a psychological exegesis of it?

Or did you just want another to walk with you through your own experience, not denying it? Just someone to allow you to feel what you were actually feeling, not trying to fix it for you or defend you from it?

This latter is the woman with the oil, who recognizes the experience for what it is, and whose faithfulness is healing. So it is that we can walk along with Jesus up to the cross, taking her as our model. We can attend to the needs of the one who is to die. We can bring the precious ointment of our attention to Jesus, no matter what he suffers. We can bring the anointing attention of love, sheer love, that will not let us look away.

So, in our loving, we bring all the suffering we have known, our own and that of others, to the one appointed to bear it. We walk with him to the place where he takes it on. And we follow him as he thereafter walks with all the suffering of creation, of all places and all times. And he walks with us as we walk with those who suffer.

Then the oil for Jesus' burial is truly the oil for the healing of all.