Thursday after Ash Wednesday
Now while Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, reclining at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of costly aromatic oil from pure nard. After breaking open the jar, she poured it on his head. But some who were present indignantly said to one another, “Why this waste of expensive ointment? It could have been sold for more than three hundred silver coins and the money given to the poor!” So they spoke angrily to her. Mark 14:3-5
William Law, in his book A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, sums up the essence of the Christian life in the following words, “This, and this alone, is Christianity, a universal holiness in every part of life, a heavenly wisdom in all our actions, not conforming to the spirit and temper of the world but turning all worldly enjoyments into means of piety and devotion to God.” In following this universal holiness, Jesus dismisses the anger of his followers with the woman when he offers her the freedom to live out her piety extravagantly. Lent reminds us as Christians that we are to freely give our alabaster jar of costly oil to God and others. All we do can integrate “a heavenly wisdom” which detaches from “the spirit and temper of the world.” Our “worldly enjoyment” can become pious acts if we ask ourselves, “How does what I am about to do glorify God?” The woman who used her costly oil to glorify God knew the men might speak angrily to her. Nevertheless, her pious action was well placed simply because she glorified God. So how do we as Christians apply a “universal holiness in every part of life?” What a worthy reflection.
The Rev. Tim Gavin
The Episcopal Academy