Lent challenges us to love unconditionally

Lent is the time in the Christian calendar that is designed to prepare us for the fullness of Easter offering us a new vision of life and faith. This week’s Gospel text points to the wildly extravagant love and mercy of God. It also challenges us to ask ourselves how we can love as fully as Mary, the central figure in this well-known text.

The Gospel writers view this text as so important that they offer four different accounts of this story in all four Gospels. The structures are the same, but the details are different. It’s only in John’s version, John 12: 1-8, that she is referred to by her name.

This account, by far, offers the most intimate portrait of Mary’s encounter with Jesus. We see Mary as her truest and most vulnerable self. We see that she is sensitive and emotional. She does several things in this encounter that would have been considered highly unconventional for a woman of her time. First, she loosens her hair. Then she wets the feet of Jesus with her tears. She then proceeds to anoint his feet with the most expensive oil she can find, worth about 300 days labor.

Why would she do this? Why would she perform an act so loving and tender that it made people in the room uncomfortable? Mary knew how to embrace the sacredness of the moment and she invites us to do the same in our own lives. She invites us to love Jesus the same way that she did.

During this Lenten season we must ask ourselves how we can be like her in our own relationships. How can we demonstrate this kind of love for others?

Since Mary has a name and a relationship with Jesus in this version and she’s not painted as primarily a sinner, but as his long-time friend, we can glean an important message. We don’t have to walk through this world feeling too wayward or too sinful, and altogether unworthy because God loves us so very extravagantly. The question is, can we live as such forgiven children of God that we remember that God always gives us more than we can ask for? Amen.

The Rev. Jessica Zolondek is a minister of Word and sacrament with the Presbyterian Church (USA).