by Dcn. Ron Christolear
Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” Matthew 26:6–13
Recently, I have found myself waking up in the morning with my first thoughts centered around the tasks I have ahead of me, and what I will need to do to carry out those tasks. Sadly, the last thing on my mind is waking up to greet the Lord and thank him for a new day and a new opportunity to serve him. The struggle I face, and I’m sure most of you do from time-to-time, is the fight over the physical vs. the spiritual. This seems to be the issue at hand in our reading for today.
In our passage, we see Jesus and the Disciples enjoying time together at the house of Simon the leper. In the midst of this time, a woman comes to Jesus and pours a jar of expensive oil on his head. Whether she knew it or not, Jesus explains that she had her priorities in the right order. The Disciples were thinking about earthly things while this woman was thinking about heavenly things.
Another story concerning priorities is found in Luke 10:38-42. Luke recounts the story of Mary and Martha. Mary sat at the Lord’s feet while Martha was busy in the kitchen. Martha complained to Jesus and he responded by telling Martha that Mary was doing what was most important, sitting at his feet and listening to what he had to say.
In both stories, it was the one spending time with Jesus who had their priorities in the right order. That’s not to say that those other tasks were not important, but they were not the most important at that moment.
I believe we can learn at least two important lessons from today’s readings. From the woman with the jar of ointment we learn to pour out our lives and our devotion to serve to the Father. From Mary, we learn the importance of daily sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to his words so that we may become more like him. Through this devotion and learning, we become sensitive to the moving and leadership of the Holy Spirit as we serve him in the physical world.
Lent is a season when we set aside the cares of the world, and with intent focus our hearts, minds, and efforts on drawing near to Jesus. During Lent we fast, but the goal of fasting is not to make us as miserable as possible or to even say to God, “See what I gave up for you?” It is to say, “Jesus, you are more important to me than anything I have or do.” The purpose of Lent is to draw our hearts away from the things of earth and toward the things of God’s kingdom. By doing this, we come to the realization that these acts of devotion and obedience should be a part of our daily lives throughout the entire year, not just during Lent.
Dcn. Ron ministers at Trinity Anglican Church