“…a woman came with an alabaster jar of perfumed oil, costly genuine spikenard. She broke the alabaster jar and poured it on his head…”She has done a good thing for me.”” – Mark 13:36-37
The act of extravagance portrayed in this chapter of Mark’s gospel displays one of the finest acts of love in the sacred scriptures. We heard today in Deuteronomy 6:4-19, the Shema prayer, the very one we heard Jesus quote three days ago in our readings:
“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength…”
The woman has indeed expressed her love for the Lord. She goes way beyond what is expected of her, generous beyond description. It was the custom that when a guest arrived at a house to pour a few drops of perfume on them. This woman not only used the best oil she could find, but she lavishes her guest, Jesus, with the oil; she broke the flask and used its whole contents!
The breaking of the flask follows a custom when a distinguished guest dined with you, the cup they drank from would not be washed, but would be broken, so it would not be used by a lesser person. There is another custom that when a body is anointed for burial, the flask would be broken and laid alongside the body.
The costly oil, poured out in such extravagant love, an uncalculating love that goes beyond what is necessary; it is a little reckless in not counting the cost. Nothing is too much.
Many times we may have an inspiration to act with extravagance, to act only because it would be a lovely thing to do. Not necessary, but lovely. Perhaps we hesitate in these moments because we feel awkward, afraid we would be misunderstood – like the woman was. Perhaps our second thoughts hold us at bay from acting on a winsome idea. Perhaps an impulse to send a letter to someone of thanks, or expressing our love; the impulse to give a gift to someone with no reason, or to speak a special word.
Our impulses to love without cost are strangled before they are born in action. What would our world be like if more of us acted with such an impulse of love like the woman. Why did she do it? Perhaps she knew that if she did not act now, she would never do it at all. And what a difference her extravagance made to Jesus.
May God Bless you.