Open Bible:
April 2004 

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The unction of Bethany




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The unction of Bethany, Mark 14, 3-11

When Jesus was sitting at a meal in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came. She was carrying an expensive alabaster flask of ointment. She broke the flask and poured it on the head of Jesus. This created a surprise and some were filled with indignation within themselves and said: Why make this waste of money? Why was this luxury made? It is nonsense! Instead of this foolish expense, it could have been given to the poor. They were furious with this woman.

L'onction Jesus allowed this woman to do it and to express all her love for him.
She is not asking anything. She is really herself in this superabundance. She does not look for some thing else.
Usually the giving and taking regulate our human relationships, we are convinced that we cannot make an action without receiving a benefit. In ordinary life we are used to the exchange mode of relationships. What we do for the others is what we expect they do for us. If not, we complain about their lack of gratitude.

Consequently, if some body, like this woman, gives with abundance, it is a surprise, because we are out of the market logic where the law is respected, which is already some thing, but here we go over a strict justice to reach superabundance.
In the Gospel, besides Jesus, only women show an action of superabundance. In the parables, like the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus wants to make us understand that God behaves like that with us. God gives freely. Then in the Gospel: "you have received free, give free". 

donner sans compter

Certainly Jesus recognizes himself in this woman. Like her, at the time of his crucifixion, he gives all.

Since the disciples refer to the poor who are not attending this meal, Jesus answers them on the same mode: is it not him the poor among them?
The disciples have no idea that they have in front of them a poor who will be soon put on trial with the risk to be condemned to death. Jesus knows that his time is coming in a short while and soon he will be abandoned.

Is it not the reference to the poor a pretext to move this woman aside? She is showing an unusual intimacy with Jesus who welcomes her and allows her to do it.

solder son maître Judas is making some bargaining with the high priests. What a contrast with the attitude of the woman who is the only one not looking for gains! Judas hands over Jesus for money. He sells off his master for only 30 pieces of silver when the woman has spent more than this on perfume for Jesus! 

Jesus is the only one to understand this woman. He takes her defense and he pays the best tribute to her by underlying the exceptional meaning of her action: " She has come beforehand to anoint my body in preparation for the burying".