Jesus is anointed by a woman who is never named, yet she is remembered to this day. She is remembered for her courage in breaking social rules and gender boundaries. She is remembered for selfless and sacrificial giving, an act so costly and beautiful, that its connections with Jesus’ own self giving in the very next chapter cannot be overlooked.
Yet it does not meet with universal approval. In fact, only Jesus vouches for her. Others are upset by the waste, by the audacious display, by the flaunting of closely guarded rules and norms. We see that one heart is open and free toward Jesus, but that many are closed and hardened.
The unnamed woman is not constrained. There is no expectation laid on her to act in this way. In fact every expectation and convention tells her not to behave like this. Yet she is compelled. She has been captured by Jesus’ generosity and goodness, and must respond with all she has. How do we live like that, how can we be free to give like that?
This way of prayer invites us to find our way into a life of generosity, not because we feel we have to, but because we want to. Pass the scented oil around, and invite people dab a little onto their hand, then to clasp their hands together and hold them to their nose. As they breathe in, invite them to imagine they are receiving God’s generosity, God’s kindness, God’s blessing and belonging. As they breathe out, encourage them to imagine they are making these gifts to those around them. Ask to them to consider how God might be asking them to partner in his generosity toward the world.
You might like to conclude or give shape to this time with these words,
‘Lead us into giving because we want to,
Not because we have to.’