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Holy Week Reflection: Anointing

From Emily Peña Murphy.

When the woman rushed into the crowded banquet at the house of Lazarus, all conversation hushed, for she was generally known in the community to be a sinner. Brazenly she crossed the circle of guests and knelt before Jesus’ feet. She kissed them, weeping; and then wiped them dry with her tangled hair. Her next action, though, was even more startling; for she broke open a flask of costly oil of spikenard and anointed Jesus’ feet. The disciples took issue with this, arguing that the squandered oil might have been sold for a good price and the money given to the poor.

In so saying, the disciples demonstrated their agreement with their teacher’s often-stated concern for the most vulnerable. But they betrayed their ignorance of the reality of this moment in the life of their Lord. This time bore a significance which transcended all other beliefs and values, for unbeknownst to the men who followed him the hour of Jesus’ martyrdom was fast approaching. Jesus disagreed with the arguments of his disciples and praised the woman’s sacrifice, which symbolically prepared him for his burial. These words surely puzzled those gathered around him! Jesus also contrasted his anointer’s righteous attentions with his indifferent reception by his hosts. And yet their time to have him among them was coming to an end. Did any of the household or guests understand what he said?

This story from the Gospels is meaningful to me for it is one of many in which a woman—even a stranger—demonstrates a knowledge of Jesus’ true identity and calling that surpasses the awareness of the men who lived with Him and heard His teachings every day. Many of us can call to mind the other illustrations of this theme in the New Testament stories. The women, for all their sin, uncleanness, and inferior social status knew in a profound way who this man was. What’s more, they were unafraid to take risks to demonstrate this knowledge and their love for God’s Son.


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