In chapter 14, Mark tells the story of the woman who breaks "an alabaster box of ointment," "very precious," and pours it on Jesus' head. Right away, there are some who have "indignation within themselves," and say "Why was this waste of the ointment made? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor." Jesus then tells them to leave her alone, "For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always."
On Friday after class, I sat down and read this passage. I had just finished an extremely busy week, and I wanted to just sit still and think for a while. The majority of my studies this week have been focused on the Arab-Israeli conflict, the tragic state of Gaza and the obstacles in providing humanitarian aid, and the desperate condition of the "failed state" of Haiti. I'm trying to learn about these things. I'm trying to figure out how I can help. For the majority of this semester I've made a conscious effort to be uplifting to everyone I encounter, I've tried to live righteously and in a way that God would want me to, I've tried to be anxiously engaged in a good cause. But, as I read Mark 14, I wondered if the many things I'm filling my life with were detracting from something higher, something better. This woman came to Jesus, broke this box of ointment, and poured the whole of its contents on his head. She gave him her all. Whether she knew it or not, she anointed him for his impending burial. When I read this woman's story, I felt as though I don't have enough moments in my life where I completely surrender my mind and heart to the spirit. I thought of an Orthodox Jewish community--a community where your life centers around prayer, praise, and fervent study of God's words. I wish my life more resembled theirs. I suppose I do praise God often in the sense that I try to be anxiously engaged in a good cause, I try to help my fellow man, I try to help God's children. But, is that the best way? Would I feel closer to God if my life centered around meditation and prayer? If I spent the entirety of my time reading scriptures and pondering?
In my New Testament class, we discussed the response of the other people to the woman's anointing. Surely they didn't have any evil intents in suggesting that she should have rather given the benefits of the ointment to the poor. However, we discussed that it is a tactic of Satan to distort things into either/or decisions, when instead, this story is raising the question of priority. In this gospel, you do what's right at the right time. I think I would feel that burning in my bosom more often if all my time were spent in praise and prayer and meditation, but to be honest, I don't think I would understand Christ and God as much if I lived a passive life of praise. Because of my efforts to be an active disciple, I've met people who have taught me to love, to worry, to agonize over their welfare and salvation. I've learned, on a small scale, what Christ experienced and how he feels about me.
They must be concurrent efforts. You must be actively engaged in a good cause. But, you must also take those moments to stop, sit quietly, and open your heart to the spirit, pour all your gratitude on the head of the Savior. There's a time for all things. There's a balance to all things.