Tuesday, August 14, 2018
While Jesus was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.
“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.” – Mark 14:3-6
Today I share about the Beautiful Thing and how it contrasts with the ugly thing. And I see it in two places, once in the obvious focus of the moment, once in the subtle setting of the moment.
Almost casually this moment long remembered is placed in its setting … in the home of Simon the Leper. A man who is known by his affliction, leprosy, someone who was labelled as untouchable, an outcast, someone to avoid, a person from whom you kept your distance. This avoidance of lepers was a matter of Biblical law based on then a lack of understanding the disease. (Biblical law has a premise that it often draws upon … with the knowledge we have at the time, we will conduct ourselves prudently and cautiously.) But against the flow of the culture, Jesus and His disciples dine in the home of Simon the Leper. The Beauty of acceptance of an outcast, the ugliness of an unfounded prejudice, this is the contrast.
Now, the more obvious example is the woman who lavishly anointed Christ. This was the Beautiful thing, to love lavishly. The contrasting ugliness is the rather cold-hearted criticism of the woman’s extravagance. As happens so many times in the Gospels … Jesus turns a situation into a teaching moment. I used to hear Christ’s words, “Why do you bother her?” as a chastisement of the disciples, but lately, I am wondering if these words were more of a penetrating question about their attitude and behavior … “Why? Why is your reaction one of criticism? Why are you so self-righteous in your appraisal of her? Why are so insensitive, so blind to the Beauty? Why?”
Yes, I find this a lesson in the need for self-examination … why do we do what we do?
Always in Christ’s Service,
Fr. Charitas de la Cruz