A woman, an alabaster jar, anointing Jesus, weeping, her tears falling on his feet.
In Jewish culture there is the belief that preparing a body for burial is the purest gift because it is a good deed for which the beneficiary – the deceased – can offer no repayment. When Jesus tells us the woman has anointed him for burial he isn’t just hinting darkly at his coming crucifixion. He’s also telling us something about her.
I don’t think she’s weeping with gratitude only because Jesus had pronounced her sins forgiven. I think she’s weeping with gratitude and love because despite her sin, despite her brokenness, there was a man who accepted her. Here was a man who saw who she really was, a man who heard the voice of her heart. A man who loved her. There’s a reason why so very few of us experience this depth of gratitude towards God. It’s because so many of us take that love for granted. We speak about his love in abstractions. Very few of us have the experience of knowing his love amidst our profound brokenness.
Without gratitude we can’t accept grace. Without gratitude we can’t worship, can’t pray, can’t open our hearts to what God wants to do in our lives. Gratitude begins as a response to what God has done but soon becomes so much more. It becomes the good soil in which seed is planted and, like humility, the empowering virtue which gives life to all others.
In our consumer-driven culture it’s so very difficult to replace our sense of entitlement with a spirit of gratitude. It requires discipline. It sometimes feels like work. Eventually, however, the heart overcomes the mind and the Spirit is allowed free reign. Gratitude becomes something more than a word, it becomes the spirit we bring to every conversation, every online interaction, every gathering of friends and family. It becomes present in hospital rooms and college dorms, in offices and workshops. It changes us.
And it changes our world.