In Memory of Her
By Bishop Paulo Lockmann
I want to express my joy at being here, and to be able to share the message of the Word of God at this time of Easter. I will start by focusing on a particular fact that occurred before the remarkable episode of Jesus’ arrest, death and resurrection in Jerusalem.
With this in mind, I would like to share and focus on a less discussed episode which happened after Jesus entered into Jerusalem and occurred in the town of Bethany.
This is the story of the anointing of Jesus at Bethany, a text rich with lessons for our reflection and Christian practice highly relevant for this Easter time.
After being anointed by a women Jesus declared in this sentence, which has been analysed, and interpreted by many scholars in many different ways.
Seeing the indignation of some of his disciples, for what they considered a waste of time, Jesus stated: “Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them anytime you want. But you will not always have me”(Mark 14.6-7).
For me, this verse clearly shows the importance of the poor to Jesus, of whom he spent the majority of his time living among them and carrying out his ministry.
Today, some people ideologise and maliciously use the words of Jesus in John 12:8, they legitimize poverty as an irreversible situation, directly attributed as punishment of God.
This use is very common in some evangelical theology, in Latin America, thus disregarding two things: The context in which the sentence was made and its purpose our reading in Mark helps a lot to clarify this.
Addressing first the context; at this time Jesus had just received a holy act of servitude from the woman and therefore in turn praised her actions.
Jesus then challenged his disciples to consider that the poor will always be in need long after his death and ordered them to always serve and care for those most in need, as a community of faith.
Without dwelling on this explanation, we could see how the example of Jesus and his teaching prospered in the context of the Early Church, and in the Book of Acts and the Pauline writings or in other epistles of the New Testament.
In Acts, the establishment of the deacons was created in order to visit and carry out the service of the poor. Paul, writing to the Corinthians (II Cor 8.6-9), talks about offering themselves entirely to the poor with joy, love and grace. Finally the cry of James’ epistle vehemently in condemns the rich (James 5.1-6), which according to James have enriched themselves by retaining the salaries of their employees.
The second point is Jesus’ focus on enhancing the woman’s action and her attitude, in order to highlight its importance for eternity.
As we know, the situation of women at the time of Jesus was condemned in a deeply marginal patriarchal society. And these people who were marginalized by society unjustly were given great favor by Jesus and chosen as the main recipients of his ministry. Helping those who felt utterly helpless.
Furthermore, I meditate on what Jesus then commented about the woman:
“Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
We should underline this sentence because in no other instance has Jesus remarked in this way about another man or woman.
Even in the Greek text there appears a verb that is not always translated whose meaning helps us to understand the strength of it this expression “poieô” whose translation is “to Do,” in the sense that her deed would count for eternity throughout the world.
There is a question: Why has Jesus highlighted this woman?
It doesn’t matter whether she is Mary, sister of Lazarus or not. It could have been anyone.
To understand better is to analyze the event in parts – the context, expectations and procedures in relation to Jesus.
How Jesus responded to the expectations and how he felt the woman’s attitude and Jesus’ words corresponding to this.
The literary context of this text is quite broad, since it comes from a large section called History of the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ.
They are the accounts of his first moments entering triumphantly into Jerusalem.
The socio-historical and economic context is domination. That is a people who were dominated by a foreign nation the Romans, who ironically were preparing its most celebrated party, Easter, which remembered how God had delivered them from the domain of a foreign nation the Egyptians.
This time of Easter, therefore, created the hope that God through the Messiah, Jesus would liberate the people, as had occurred in the past.
This was one of the preachings of the rabbinic tradition and the contemporary Jewish theology. According to them it is at Easter where the great events in the history of Israel occur. It states: While Hezekiah celebrated Easter with Isaiah and the people, the angel of the Lord destroyed the armies of Sennacherib as reported in II Cr 30; II Kings 19.35-37; 37.36-38 Is.
The uprising of Mattathias Maccabee, was another fact that served as a function in prohibiting the celebration of Easter an order given by Antiochus IV, during the Greek period. According to the writings of Jewish Apocalyptic, it was at Easter, that the judgment of the Lord fell upon Edom and the nations of the earth, and the deliverance of Israel occurred.
All of this expectations only increased around Jesus and what the Master was supposed to do. This popular expectation was offset by the good neighbor policy, maintained by members of the Sanhedrin (the priests, the elders and the scribes).
Proof of this was that although the people who welcomed Jesus at Easter, rejoicing his arrival while their leaders were plotting his death, as described in Mark 14.1-2.
Even among his closest disciples, the tension and anxiety was great. The mother of James and John came to ask for preference for her children. There were even fights between the disciples for places in the Kingdom which for many would bring Jesus to Jerusalem. All around Jesus people wanted something for themselves.
Today in most cases people also relate to God in this way.
Everywhere and at all times we find this type of religiosity.
Thus, such actions and the selfishness implicit in them should leave Jesus aggrieved by such a lack of vision, too much ambition, too much hardness in the heart and too much pride.
We can see part of Jesus’ sadness and desolation with this, in many instances; his lamenting and crying at the sight of Jerusalem as Luke 19.41-44, as well as the episode later with anointing and his anguished prayer in Gethsemane described in Mark 14.33-34. Such was the emotional state of the child of God, who is fully God but also fully man, that we can try to imagine what it was for Jesus at his last Passover with his disciples, ending his ministry among men.
Often we minimize human emotional conflicts experienced by Jesus, but the truth is that he cried, laughed, was saddened and rejoiced as any human would.
Thusly, it is possible to understand how important the gesture of the woman was for Jesus.
Again, if you look through the Gospel, you will not find in any way, the account of a person who approaches Jesus during his ministry.
With the exception of the sinner in the Pharisee’s house who washed his feet and kissed him as reported in Luke 7.36-50.
In contrast, what the woman offered was far more precious.
Some scholars spend time describing the lemongrass scent of India, the expensive nature of the oil which had been brought in by caravans, all to emphasize the value of the woman´s gesture.
But the real secret value of her act is in giving. Not only in giving to Jesus, but also in giving the best of her.
Here lies the secret of good action, recognized by Jesus himself. Many can give and give, but few give all or give the best of themselves.
Often we give you what no longer serves us, or what’s left. This is not the offer that woman made, nor was this the offering of Jesus made for us.
The woman had a great symbolic value and a solidarity with Jesus.
The offering of Jesus was his own life for us, a very costly gift.
In the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the precious grace.
It should also be emphasized that this woman was the only one to clearly understand the suffering of Jesus, something not accepted nor understood by the disciples (Mk 8.31-33), until the first announcement of the passion.
However, she understood that the sacrifice and death of Jesus approached, she understood how Jesus´s ministry angered the powerful and those in high places.
In understanding this we can interpret her offer as a conscious act of love, compassion and commitment to the Messiah, who was to be crucified.
Jesus said, “she did what she could, anticipated to anoint me to the grave.”
All this things are already mentioned, which makes this woman, different from other people who were with Jesus in those days.
Because this, Jesus immortalized her gesture, revealed the pure love she had inside. A love she was willing to share and give.
Now, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s Word, we are always challenged to meditate.
Let me give you a few questions to contemplate:
Who do we resemble more?
The crowds cheering with eager celebration but without great commitment?
Or with the disciples, disputing for a more honorable position? Or rather,
Can we say we resemble that of the woman? Giving all that we have and all that we are to show our love?
Finally, having received the greatest of gifts from Jesus, our own lives, How do we find the way to get closer to Him and prove our commitment to Jesus the lamb of God?