'She has done what she could.'
I'd never noticed this little phrase before, in all my years of Bible reading, snuck in to a very familiar episode from the Gospels, the story of the brazen hussy who wasted an entire bottle of expensive ointment by wantonly pouring it all over Jesus' feet. Interesting to note that she's not actually a brazen hussy in Mark's telling of the story in which this little phrase apppears, or Matthew's, either; she is, quite simply, a woman. The Lukan version, which portrays the woman as a 'sinner,' has become much more embedded within the Christian tradition than the less detailed versions in Mathew and Mark. (I remember listening to The Song of the Harlot on an audio cassette as a teenager after being introduced to American Christian pop band 'The Violet Burning' and thinking it was wonderful. I still do.)
'She has done what she could.' It's a detail that neither Luke nor Matthew pick up in their re-tellings of this narrative, which is possibly why I'd never paid it much attention, either. But the other week, when this reading came up in Morning Prayer (Mark 14:1-11), it was about the only thing I did notice, because it struck me with such force. This woman, whoever she was, anointed Jesus' feet because she could. She was there, just at that moment in history as God's heartbreaking but salvific plan for the world was about to take a deathly turn, just at that place at which Jesus and his friends were sitting down to eat. She had the alabaster oil. She could anoint Jesus' feet, so she did. It was a unique opportunity, and she took it.
Obviously, I'm not that woman. I'm not in first century Palestine with an expensive jar of ointment. Here I am, 2000 years later, tapping away at a computer. There are things I can't so, and anoint Jesus' feet is one of them.
But there are so many things I could do, I, with my particular matrix of time and place, experiences and gifts to bring to the feet of Jesus. If, at the end of each day, I could look back and say 'I did what I could', that'd be a life well lived. It might sound like an excuse to do little, but of course that just shows a fundamental personal dishonesty. If we could truly say, with integrity, that we have done what we could to love and serve others, then we have lived fully.
And if everyone could say, with integrity, that they have done what they could to love and serve others, the world would be transformed.