Daily Lectionary Readings for Year A
The first sentence, verses 6 and 7, are remarkable. Jesus is eating a meal at the home of Simon the Leper. We can assume that Jesus was in the home and at the table of one who suffered from a skin condition that made him ritually unclean. His leprosy restricted his access to the temple or the synagogue. Leviticus 14 lays out the complicated process for one who has been cleansed from leprosy to be able to rejoin the community. And yet Jesus was at his table, eating his food, gathered with his disciples and others. Sometimes we can take strides ahead more by the things that we do than the words that we say. I do not know the details or the full story of Simon the Leper. But I can suspect that Jesus lifted the stigma of leprosy by his presence. Others might have been less fearful knowing that Jesus was not afraid. By choosing to eat at Simon's house, Jesus was changing the focus from the label given to Simon, to Simon himself. Can you think of times you have helped overcome the perception others have of someone simply by being a friend?
The second part of this first sentence describes a woman present with an alabaster jar of costly perfume. Sometimes we miss how connected Jesus was to women. Mary must have taught him valuable lessons about the exceptional worth and abilities of women. In a patriarchal society, the elevated role of women in the story of Jesus is remarkable. This woman brings a beautiful jar of costly perfume to this dinner party. She pours the perfume over Jesus' head as he reclines at the table. Take a moment to imagine what is happening. Do you think the woman was nervous? What do you think she said as she offered Jesus this gift? Imagine how Jesus closed his eyes as the perfume ran over his hair, face, neck, and robe. Imagine how the perfume filled the room with a beautiful and powerful fragrance. Do you think the woman regretted pouring out this expensive gift?
Sometimes faith makes us do things that others think to be foolish. What does it feel like when you give a gift to the church? Imagine the gift you give to be as beautiful and powerful as the gifts in this gospel's first sentence. The gift of life and dignity. The gift that blesses. The gift that is extraordinary and surprising, beautiful and loving. The gift that is not wasted but continues to bless even today. One sentence tells us so much about Jesus. Thanks be to God.