While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”
Mark 14: 3-9
During this past Sunday’s worship, one of our pastors, Mary Anona Stoops shared her reflection on verses from Mark’s 14th chapter. In those days before Jesus was put to death, we are told this story of time coming to a gentle stop. We are told in this story that the world was held in a moment of compassion. Here in this holy moment, Jesus claimed his humanity and received this act of lovingkindness. Here in this timeless moment love persisted.
Through this story Mary Anona encouraged us to face our coming days in a posture of compassion rather than perfection. After all, what can perfection possibly mean in a pandemic anyway? Staying always in our homes and having provisions delivered to our doorstep? Carrying with us a 6-foot pole to keep everyone at least that distance away if not more? Drinking strictly quarantinis? What?
In this Holy Week my heart is holding on to my stories of faith. In these days I am listening for Jesus’ words from the side of a hill, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” In my heart I am listening for his words of stories told to sisters and brothers along the way, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul and your neighbor as yourself.” In my heart I am listening for his words when the darkness was growing, “Fear not, for I am with you.” In my heart I am listening for the stones that are still singing out.
Taking on the posture of compassion is all about intention for these unfolding, unknowing days. It is keeping heart and mind open to YES. It is acknowledging attempts great and small of kindness from loved ones and strangers. It is eye contact. It is “thank you,” “yes, please,” and “no, thank you.” It is moments of not quitting AND self-care – both. It is left foot, right foot. It is, as our beloved Candler professor, Roberta Bondi taught us years ago when we asked her about prayer: Showing up, Paying attention, Being honest and Not being wedded to the outcome.
And so, for today, like the woman who saw Jesus as a soul who needed compassion, we are reminded of the power that comes when we do what we can do. It matters in the midst of these days, that we participate and not feel like all of this is just happening to us. Today it is enough to offer kindness, to give from a heart-place of generosity, to take on the posture of compassion. It is enough to lead with our hearts in these unknowing days. It is enough to pray prayers of petition as well as thanksgiving. It is enough. Offering compassion in these tender, unbelievably tender days is enough. To do what I can do, what we can do, is enough.