Reflection by The Rev. Dr. Rev. Micah Jackson
When the young man told his mother that he intended to join the Army, he thought that she might never forgive him. Grief over the loss of the life path she had imagined for him, and fear for his safety, made her say some things that he hoped she really didn’t mean. Shortly before he left for Basic Training, he received a package from his mother. It contained a book of day hikes in the area around Fort Bragg. He knew that she had forgiven him. She was still sad and scared, of course, but at least she had come to peace with what still felt a little like abandonment and betrayal.
I wonder if that might have been what was going through Mary’s head when she decided to break open her jar of pure nard to anoint the feet of her friend and teacher, Jesus. When others came to understand that Jesus was determined to go to Jerusalem and would allow himself to be crucified, they all reacted selfishly. Those who rebuked him, or denied the truth of what he was saying, or rashly promised that they would accompany him to death if it meant they wouldn’t ever be without him, were all acting out of sadness, anger, or fear. But Mary, alone among those who followed him, though surely also frightened and scared, anointed his body as if on the day of his burial. Overcoming her other emotions, she was able to acknowledge her understanding of his coming death while he was still alive to experience her love. She forgave Jesus for what he was about to do tohis friends, because she understood what he was about to do forhis friends.
So often, when we experience hurt by the actions of another, we withhold our forgiveness because we still want to control the actions of the other person. We think we need them to change their minds, or make it right somehow, or at least to apologize, before we can offer forgiveness. But true forgiveness doesn’t require any of that. Many times, reconciliation is not desirable or possible, and forgiveness doesn’t mean we should continue to accept genuine harm or abuse. But forgiveness does mean releasing our desire for revenge or other kinds of control over the actions or feelings of another. At its best, our forgiveness can even bless the other person as they go, as the fragrance of Mary’s perfume filled the house where Jesus and his disciples shared a meal.
Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.
In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.