Thursday, 13 June 2013

It will all come pouring out


Luke 7:36 - 8:3
(cf. Matt 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9 and John 12:1-8)

This Sunday's Gospel takes three slightly different forms in Matthew and Mark and Luke and a completely alternate retelling in John's Gospel:

A woman of ill-repute breaks into a dinner party made up of worthy people. She anoints Jesus with costly and fragrant ointment and weeps. The onlookers are aghast that Jesus should allow someone so sullied to have physical contact with him or (in Mark and Matthew's version) that expensive ointment has been so extravagantly wasted.

Is it only my imagination or do notorious sinners secretly save things up: money in numbered accounts or bodies buried somewhere? They accumulate people - confederates to keep their secrets and friendly policemen to turn a blind eye. They keep a pot of expensive perfume at home to make their world smell better. They save up alibis or excuses which they rehearse. They must even convince themselves. They collect a series of routes home which bypass the people who know them and could denounce them. In the long run the lies they tell to hide their misdeeds become complicated and interlocking and hard to maintain.

Even those who may not consider themselves particularly notorious sinners will recognize this accumulated burden which they bear around in secret upon their shoulders. It may all become too much - as it did for this woman who, one day, decides to end the pretense. She hears the buzz in the market that Jesus is in her neighborhood and will be eating with Simon the Pharisee at his house. She knows the place and that Jesus is a perceptive prophet. There she will be known and exposed. She will come clean.

It will all come pouring out.

When we love, testify or confess we spread our riches about. We empty our account. And rather than leaving us bereft, the perfume fills the room. Until this point the road has always carried us away from community, away from friendship and away from confident commerce with strangers. Jesus’ very presence can coax us from the tree where we've been hiding, up from the beggar’s corner that has been our lot in life - into community, into friendship and into forgiveness.