Anointing of Jesus By James Tissot

As Holy Week begins, we read this year the Passion narrative from the Gospel of Mark. The narrative begins with an anonymous woman anointing the head of Jesus with expensive ointment. This is such an important moment it is mentioned in all four Gospels. (Mark 14, Luke 7, John 12, Matthew 26)

When he was in Bethany reclining at table in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of perfumed oil, costly genuine spikenard. She broke the alabaster jar and poured it on his head. There were some who were indignant. “Why has there been this waste of perfumed oil? It could have been sold for more than three hundred day’s wages and the money given to the poor.”

They were infuriated with her. Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you make trouble for her? She has done a good thing for me. The poor you will always have with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them, but you will not always have me. She has done what she could. She has anticipated anointing my body for burial. 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.” (Mark 14: 3-9)

This woman is clearly someone who was in close contact with Jesus, and paid close attention to all he taught. Her gesture is one of love, and indicates she had a deeper understanding than most about Jesus’ teaching that he must suffer, die and be raised from the dead. Her offering is also costly, ‘worth more than 300 days wages’. That is an annual salary! She also had a great sensitivity to the prompting of the Holy Spirit to know the time was at hand. She could sense the tension in the air, and she knew the time had come, and she wanted to express her love in a very meaningful way.

As we journey through this Holy Week, may we be equally attentive to Jesus, especially to all he taught by his life, passion, death and resurrection. May we find ways this week to express our love for Jesus in meaningful ways (i.e. attend all the liturgical celebrations of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday). And, may we be equally attentive to the ‘signs of our times’ to know what we must do to demonstrate our love for Jesus in concrete and practical ways.