I know what you think of me, even all these years later. For some I am portrayed as an inappropriate woman, unclean, unworthy. People think this of me because I tend to people that others would never touch. I help the poor women, even the Gentile women, give birth. I am a midwife and for that I am considered unclean. I help the dying and comfort them in their final hours with tinctures of herbs to soothe their anxiety and bring them peace. And because I tend to the beginning of life and the end of life I am considered unclean, unworthy. Some have said I am prostitute, but that is not true. If I am considered unclean because I care for those most in need, then so be it. I don’t care what they think of me.
Others remember me by my name, Mary. Yes. Jesus was my friend and I was his friend. He knew me, the real me. In Jesus I recognize a kindred soul, another who sees deeply into the pain of this world and yearns to heal it with God’s love. Like Jesus I seek to bring God’s healing love into the frightened lives of women in pain, of babies entering this world, of children dying, of the old taking their last breath. I bring comfort and love, not in my words but in what I do.
That night, that last night, I will never forget. I was nearby and heard the noise from the dinner party. As a woman I was not allowed in the room, unless I was willing to serve the food or dance for them. But my job was not to feed the men nor entertain them.
I am a healer.
Let me tell you, I did not want to go in there. I knew it would cause a stir. And I was tired. It had already been a long day of tending to a woman giving birth. I had with me my alabaster jar of nard. The fragrance always soothes those who are agitated and scared.
I knew that Jesus was in the room with them, eating and drinking. I knew that things were going badly for him. I knew, I just knew, that he knew this too. The Roman soldiers were watching and following him. The chief priests kept a careful eye on him as well. Even his own friends were meeting secretly with government guards and spies. I personally saw Judas meet with a few of them, money exchanged hands. Judas was not to be trusted. I know him and his family, and his greed.
I know that the end is coming and I am helpless to stop it. I’ve seen it happen before. The tension mounts as the Roman soldiers apply pressure and the chief priests decide it’s better for one man to die than it is for the entire temple to be destroyed. And so it is. Someone is given over to be crucified; one person must die so the rest of us can live in peace—their idea of peace. The chief priests and scribes will do this. And Pilate and Herod and all the others will be placated for a time. I know this because I have been in all of their homes. I have cared for their family members. I am the one called for whenever there is a need to care for the suffering. As a caretaker I am trained to use my senses. I observe everything around me. I see and feel and hear things that are not intended for others to know. And so, of this, of their intent to cause Jesus’ death, I am certain.
And my heart, filled with this awareness, is breaking.
Jesus - who showed compassion to the most vulnerable. Jesus who worked side by side with me, and helped me re-member that the work I do is God’s work, even if the people despised me for it. It was Jesus who pointed out our flaws and our idolatry and yet, loved us even more. Jesus - who brought my brother Lazarus back to life. Jesus - who loves everyone. Yes, he was the one they would reject.
I could do nothing to stop it. Money had exchanged hands. The deal was done. I’d warned Jesus, and he knew it too. But not even he would not change the course of these events. He would allow them to unfold as they must.
There was, however, one thing I could do. As one who cares for the dying I could go in to that room and anoint him, who was to die, with my oil - my jar of nard.
My legs felt heavy, and although my walk was purposeful, it felt as though I were walking through water. Those few steps to Jesus, my beloved friend, took a life time to walk.
I collapsed on the floor before him and took those weary feet into my hands. Dusty and calloused – marked from three long years of walking – I gently held those feet in my warm hands and kissed them. I took one foot and rubbed it clean, massaging the nard into the tired muscles. And then I cared for the other foot. Tears ran down my face. Tears fell on his feet. I could not stop myself! I bathed him in tears and nard.
And then I realized I had no towel to wipe his feet, soaked as they were, in my tears.
My hair would have to do. I uncoiled it from my head and let its length fall to the floor. And I used my hair to wipe his feet and dry my tears.
I know the others were talking. I could hear the gasps and the guffaws, the men chiding me and calling me names. I heard Judas, (that fool!), suggest that MY nard should have been sold and the money given to the poor. Judas, who would have kept the money for himself, had the nerve to suggest that I was being greedy.
Quietly Jesus spoke. And I knew that he understood everything. He knew how deep my love for him was. He knew how deep my love for God is, a depth of love that mirrored his own. And that was enough.
It was enough to know that love trumps everything.