A personal reflection, based on John 12.1-11, for Monday in Holy Week, April 15, 2019
Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair.
Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, he, not long before, raised by Jesus from the dead, in loving, lowly devotion anoints Jesus’ feet.
Jesus recognizes Mary’s deed as preparing his body for his death and burial. Yet what she does also foreshadows what Jesus will do at the soon-to-come Last Supper with his disciples when he, in loving, lowly devotion, will wash their feet, setting an example of service for them to follow.(1)
As Mary models for Jesus what he later will do, she, for me, is a model disciple.
Funny, not humorous, but ironic is it that still and in so many places when the Bible is read and sermons are preached and lessons taught the focus remains on the men. Funny, ironic when the Bible is replete with examples of godly women.
Yes, some of this myopic tendency is historic; traceable to the cultures from which the Bible stories come and to our human societal and institutional centuries-old rigid hold on inherited patterns of patriarchy.
As a child, I noticed the male-centric customs of the church in which I was raised. All members of the Vestry were men. All acolytes were boys.
I also noticed how the women carried the greater load of the labor of the congregation, especially the ministries of music and teaching, outreach and hospitality, verily, too, in attendance at worship.
This obvious disparity in presence and participation gave rise to the prevailing joke, truly, more an admission of honesty, describing church membership as “the Episcopalians and their husbands.”
The gospel, the good news of Jesus is of unconditional and impartial love and justice. Lent is the premier season of “self-examination and repentance.”(2)
I commit myself, in Lent and throughout all the remaining seasons of my life, to examine my heart, with a fierce intentionality, to see if there are signs and shadows of gender-inequality, a lesser regard for women that, if present, can and does and will manifest itself in my thoughts and feelings, my intentions and actions.
If – and, doubtless, as a male product of American culture – I will find such, then I commit myself to repent of it that I, like Mary, may be and become a model disciple.
(1) See John 13.3-16
(2) From the Ash Wednesday liturgy, The Book of Common Prayer, page 265
Mary anoints Jesus’ feet, James Tissot (1836-1902)
Christ washing the apostles’ feet, Dirck van Baburen (1595-1624)