Have you noticed how in every encounter Jesus had with a woman, it is a liberating experience for her? The unnamed woman of Luke’s Gospel who anoints Jesus is illustrative: she leaves rescued and covered in peace. The Gospels are rife with stories of the most unexpected people making room for Jesus in their lives. Undesirables such as reviled tax collectors, lowly shepherds, crucified thieves, the untouchably diseased, and—of course—women are some of the people who make room. They show hospitality to Christ in ways that the expected people of society, certain religious leaders and wealthy men, are not willing to do.
I am amazed at the unnamed woman’s courage, belief, and single-mindedness. She was wholly focussed on Christ - so much so that she tracked Him down and came uninvited and unwanted to the house of a Pharisee to express her emotion at being forgiven. Once she is there, she very publicly affirms Jesus by anointing His feet with her tears and perfume, all while listening to the host of the dinner, Simon, vocally grumble about her presence. She lets down her hair to dry His feet, an act which would have been deeply improper for a Jewish woman. Was she thinking of the verse from Isaiah 52: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace?” Who knows? Maybe. I know I am thinking about it. Jesus responds to Simon’s complaints in terms of hospitality. He contrasts the woman’s faithfulness, pouring out of all she has, with Simon’s withholding coldness. One was a poor host; the other a marvel.
We can find in the Gospels three other stories of women anointing Jesus later in His ministry. Were they inspired by our unnamed woman’s remarkable example? Who knows? Maybe. I know I am inspired. During the season of Lent, we often give up something (eating chocolate and watching TV are popular options) so that we have more room in our lives for attending to Jesus. I plan to give up reading novels, my favourite pastime, and by the time you read this, I will probably have already slipped up here and there. But the hope is that making more room in my life for Jesus will allow me, like the unnamed woman, to walk back into my life rescued and covered in peace.
Lenten Reader 2018
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