Sunday, December 22, 2013

"She Whose Name is Love: The Woman Who Anoints Jesus" (Luke 7:36-50) by Barbara J. Billey, Candidate, ARCWP

         "When I last visited Aunt Gerry she was moved into assisted living and in a wheelchair. Her husband, Glynn had been in the hospital for several months due to declining health and advancing dementia. The possibility of them ever living together had ended.  
When I brought Gerry to Glynn’s bedside at the hospital, she leaned in, touched his face and tenderly called his name. Curled up on his side like a child, Glynn was a shadow of his former self. With some effort, Gerry stood up and kissed him repeatedly. He didn’t respond to any of her affections.

We prayed together and anointed Glynn. I formed a cross on his forehead and hands and Gerry did the same. Glynn eventually opened his eyes, but he still didn’t recognize us. These few moments of awakened presence seemed enough for her.

Later, I praised Gerry’s devotion to Glynn all these difficult months. Her reply “I care to.”

I care to. Luke’s gospel is about a woman whose longing to be near Jesus compels her to break a social convention by interrupting a dinner at Simon, the Pharisee’s house. She is nameless and does not speak, but the outpouring of her emotions and actions conveys so much. The woman lavishly anoints Jesus with unabashed sensuality.

They care to. We see Jesus and the woman engaging in a true partnership, a discipleship of equals. Each anoints, but not in the same way. How?

The woman gives herself without restraint and receives from Jesus forgiveness and peace. She is free to love and is saved. Jesus openly receives the woman’s suffering and is given the gift of her heart. Their remarkable vulnerability and witnessing of one another demonstrates a condition of soul that is spacious and inclusive.

The anointing challenges accepted Jewish social practices and roles that are not of God. Neither judges the other. Thus, something new can enter. Compassionate love flows within and between them. This is a mutual mystical relationship that has a purpose.

The woman reveals Jesus as the prophet who Simon no longer sees. This woman anoints him for his mission to free the oppressed, to bring justice and to liberate love. Her capacity to see Jesus as he truly is makes her a prophet in her own right. Through love, both are revealed in their true identity as God within, as both within God. No wonder there is weeping.

When we gather as an inclusive faith community, the presence of Wisdom Sophia as compassionate love is with us, too, in Christ Sophia. The exchange of love between us and Christ Sophia through Word and Eucharist flows as the fragrant ointment from the alabaster jar. Our love pours out and love returns to us. We are better prepared for our journey of liberating God’s love by being the presence of Christ Sophia in the world.

We care to. In the days ahead, how might we anoint others through our Eucharistic presence? Enliven them for their purpose. Will we reach out to those most in need, often the people closest to home or those we exclude? Will we let others be this presence for us?

“Tears come. She
in her softness, tenderness,
infinite love. She
who is firm, who lasts.” 1.

Jesus asks Simon, “Do you see her?” The gospel leaves us without a reply.

We see her now.
She is Gerry.
She is each woman we have called by name tonight.

She is the one who is firm, who lasts.
She is love.
She is us.
 “We are in miracles now. We are in miraculous Presence.” 

1. Excerpt from “Encounter,” a poem by Rev. Dr. Michele Birch-Conery, ARCWP Priest, Sept 23, 2013.

Barbara J. Billey, Nov 1, 2013

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