“When he was in Bethany. 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 than three hundred days’ 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” (Mark 14: 3-9).
This scene occurs at the beginning of the reading for Palm Sunday, today March 28, 2021. I understand her compulsion to do whatever she can for Christ. She has been forgiven her sins, and she has been following Jesus. She knows who he is, she knows that he is the Christ, and she believes him when he announces his death. Her desire is to return her best to him, and she does not care what Simon or Judas, or anyone else thinks of her… only Christ matters. The ugly reaction of others implies that she has not been caring for the poor, or in some other way was wasting her generosity on Christ! It also shows a lack of faith in what he has told them, that he will die soon and be resurrected. The woman with the spikenard bears witness to what his handpicked Apostles will not accept, and she does it with the best she can do. She anoints him for his death and for his kingship.
As a woman in the twenty-first century, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a college professor, active in my church, I also feel moved to give my best to Christ, and to bear witness. I think that many of us struggle to figure out what our gifts are and how we can offer those gifts back to Christ. What I would like to do is to humbly offer my own journey of desire for holiness. One of the things my spiritual director has encouraged me to look for my gifts, which, of course, all come from God and can be used for our ultimate purpose: to live with God in Heaven. And, as a mother, I want all my family, friends, and all those whom I can reach to be there with me. My plan is to write about this journey, focusing on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I will choose women in the Bible that I have found inspirational models for how to serve Christ, as a woman, as myself.
Today, on this Palm Sunday, my point is that the witness and care that women give in Christ’s mission on Earth are often overlooked. For me, someone whose ego troubles her because she feels overlooked sometimes, it is good to see that recognition is not important. Jesus tells Simon that “wherever the gospel is proclaimed to the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her” (Mark 14:9). Yet, she is not given a name. It does not matter, for she has what she wants. She has Christ’s love and his gifts. In the same way, you see other women there at the Crucifixion. While the men, except for John, have fled, the women are there with Mary. “Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother the younger James and Joses, and Salome. These women had followed him when he was in Galilee and ministered to him. There were also many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem” (Mark 15:40). Joseph of Arimathea takes the body down and lays it in his own tomb, but Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses witness and mark the place. They and Salome buy the necessary oils to clean and anoint the body. They continue to minister to him after death, support Mary and the Apostles, and are the first witnesses of the Resurrection. They do what they do because they know it is right. In their way, they are midwives to the birth of the Church. And they do this by being humble, serving, and working with the roles and gifts that God has given them. Who could want more?