She has done what she could; she has perfumed my body beforehand for my burial.
our work with one another
deepens in meaning
when done in light
of preparing another’s death
this work extends beyond
seven generations hence
in light of preparing
a world to welcome them
this leaves us working
thankful for ancestors
who laid a ground of hope
we are blessed to pass along
It is a very simple idea that we do best when we do what we can. It is not an easy idea to enflesh for we continuously get messages about what we can’t do. Enough of these and we engage in passive waiting instead of active waiting.
Active waiting includes pushing the boundaries around us just one step further than where we are. If there is no pushing, we stay stuck. If there is too much pushing, we stay stuck because of strong resistance or push-back from the larger culture.
If you are interested in a practical example of this you can read, Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, by Irin Carmin and Shana Knizhnik.
Musically, a touchstone is Give Me Roses While I Live, by the Carter Family. Good is to be done while we live for those who live. This is a way of honoring those who have gone before by doing what we imagine they would do today if they had the opportunity. It is also a way of preparing for those who will come later, that goodness become more expected and less surprising. A second song to attend to is Phil Och’s, When I’m Gone, that comes at this same issue the other way around.
If we pause for a moment we might think this woman simply has more resources available to her than the woman with two half-pennies and has invested a year’s worth of money in a perfume. Would Jesus warn against over-committing to him as well as to the Temple? If this is a non-verbal acknowledgement that Jesus is a Messiah who will suffer and die, why is she not a replacement for Peter?
We do not have the woman’s intention, only Jesus’ interpretation of her action. Other Gospels talk about her anointing Jesus’ feet. Either way, what might a current equivalent action be? Probably not marketing a Jesus perfume or building an expensive shrine. But what?