Luke 7:36-8:3 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him-- that she is a sinner." Jesus spoke up and said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." "Teacher," he replied, "Speak." "A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?" Simon answered, "I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt." And Jesus said to him, "You have judged rightly." Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little." Then he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" And he said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."
Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.
Reflection All that we possess (talents, intellect, property, privilege, expensive perfume or ointment) is gift given to our trust by God. As trustees we are both beneficiaries and guardians of the gift. We are expected to be good stewards and give account to the One from whom “no secrets are hid” of how we have used our gifts. Which brings us to the question, how will we, like the woman who many theologians believe is Mary Magdalene, how will we pour out our most precious talents and possessions as outward and visible signs of our courageous and humble relationship with God?
As I examine the nooks and crannies of my life everywhere I look I see room to be more extravagent, generous, kind and loving of my neighbor (and that includes the one with the annoying dogs and irksome music as well as the ones whose politics grate on me like fingernails on a chalkboard!) There is no shortage of opportunity for me to set aside my pride and self-interest, kneel at the feet of a brother or sister and care for them with no expectation of repayment, personal gain or changing them.
Once we examine our own lives to determine where we personally can be better trustees, then we must also examine our collective life, the Church, the body of Christ. Where might we be more extravagant in fulfilling our mission to feed the hungry, heal the sick, welcome the marginalized and comfort the afflicted? Please hear this. I am not suggesting that you and I and most people do not give generously of our time and treasure. We do. AND as we look around our community and our world there is no denying, God’s kingdom is far from fulfilled.
Too many people do not experience themselves as God’s beloved. Too many people have never experienced the extravagant love exchanged between Mary Magdalen and Jesus when she courageously broke the rules, crossed social boundaries and challenged cultural norms to bless Jesus. It is our job to change that.
Every day we have the oppportunity to go boldly into places where we may not be invited, to cross invisible barriers and with courage and humility share the good news of our faith - even at work. Every one of us has in our possession an alabaster jar. It is our faith, faith which when shared is like expensive perfume that sanctifies the air and blesses the people around us. In biblical language this is called annointing.
It is time for us trustees, individually and as the Church, to uncork the alabaster jar and pour out the fragrant Spirit of Truth - Spirit of Wisdom - the Light of Christ. We are the trustees of God’s blessing. Let us rejoice in the privilege of extending the fragrant blessing of God’s extravagant love to all people, especially the most difficult ones.