The readings from the N.T. regarding the anointings of Jesus by women are especially poignant. They offer rich images for us to reflect upon as we consider the soulful depths unique to Feminine Spirituality in which the sacredness of relationship appears primary. The essential nature of “relatedness” held within the psyches of these women appears in stark contrast to the more judgmental criticism often expressed by their male counterparts towards them.
In his “Canticle of the Creatures”, St. Francis captures exquisitely this concept of the primacy of sacred cosmic relatedness. Throughout his poem he acknowledges his sense of familial relationship with every aspect of God’s creation. Everything - and in particular human-kind - is to be regarded as sister, brother and mother. The women of the anointing readings intuitively understand this and willingly offer gestures of gratitude, affection and esteem towards the person of Jesus who has truly loved and esteemed them.
One such reading is offered to us this Holy Week in the Gospel account recorded in Mark 14. We note the clearly scornful expressions of reproach directed towards the courageous woman who anoints Jesus. She is publically criticized in response to her extravagant use of precious ointments and her unabashed, public display of affection. She, however, knows the better part, of true presence - human soul to human soul. Through her gesture of anointing she allows herself to touch and bless with loving presence the one who has humanly and divinely welcomed and affirmed her.
What astounds me as I re-read this familiar passage is noticing that Judas’ decision to betray Jesus appears to be in direct response to Jesus’ reprimand of him and the male disciples who have criticized this woman. Jesus says, ‘Leave her alone. Why are you upsetting her? She has done a good thing to me… and will be remembered’. I have never connected the dots before, between Jesus’ defense of this woman and Judas’ immediate decision to go out and betray him.
Was Jesus’ betrayal by Judas a matter of a bruised male ego, unable to integrate the prospect of women’s preciousness and equality in the sight of God? Was Jesus’ betrayal a matter of Judas’ jealousy and misogynistic worldview? Jesus died in love for all humankind, but perhaps in a particular way, he came and died to restore and esteem the feminine gender. I am compelled to reflect further on this as a poignant aspect of his Passion.
The primal entrenched dynamic of patriarchal domination and supremacy has continued throughout history with dire consequences for those who, like Jesus, equally esteem the presence of women in value and status. It is heartening to see Jesus championing these women in the New Testament, defending them and reprimanding the disciples for their disbelief, criticism and obstinacy. It offers women much hope and confidence to go forward in Christ in their callings to offer their unique gifts of presence, relatedness and courage; and to trust that they always have his defense, esteem and blessing.