Lenten Reflection – Sinead Hussey

This week leading up to Easter I am posting with permission a series of Lenten Reflections written by members of our church in Maynooth. This one by Sinead Hussey is well suited to this Good Friday – ‘Hope in the Darkness’.


Hope in the Darkness

The terrifying term “pandemic” has been headline news now for weeks.  You cannot turn on the TV, radio, or social media without hearing the statistics about the Coronavirus.

We are living in a world where everyone is facing some level of increased anxiety, stress and fear. Some of us fear catching the virus or losing a loved one, while others fear losing their jobs and what this virus will do to the economy. Fear is a natural reaction to danger, uncertainty and death. Fear, however, can be crippling and can drag us down into despair and hopelessness. Fear can distract us from our relationship with God and the truth that He is in control and “Lord of Heaven and earth” (Matt 11:25).

So what should we do with our fear?

During this lockdown I have been making a list of what the Bible says about who God is.  Writing the list has helped me focus more on who He is and has helped me with the stress this virus has inflicted. I find reading Scripture helps alleviate my stress. It comforts me to know that God is in control, that He is Sovereign and that He has a plan, whether I know his plan or not. By turning my attention to God my worries ease a little.

To remember that God is gracious and compassionate (Ps 145:8-9), merciful (Lk 6:36),  trustworthy, faithful (2 Tim 2:13), good (lk 18;19), kind, (Eph 2:7), wise (Job 9:4), unchanging (Deut 7:9), just (Dan 9:14), holy (Ps 77:13), loving and forgiving (Ps 86:5) helps refocus my thoughts on Him and I feel reassured that we are in this together.  Knowing that He is our refuge and our hope (Ps 46:1), and that He has promised that he will never leave us or forsake us (Deut 31:6) comforts me during these unprecedented times.

Turning my attention to God lifts the stress and anxiety that I feel during this pandemic.

Remembering the truths of who He is, and what he has done, brings me a sense of peace and calm. This peace alongside our future hope moves me/us to respond to this crisis.

So, how do we respond to anxiety, stress and fear during this crisis?

By redirecting our minds to God we can become the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. By focusing on who He is we can be released from fear. We need to remind ourselves that He has a plan and He will protect us.

We respond by offering prayer to others, by keeping in touch with those who are alone, by calling on our elderly neighbour, by doing some shopping for someone who needs it, and by going to the post office for those who are cocooned.

Prayer is an amazing tool we have as Christians. I recently prayed with an elderly woman who has parkinsons. When I opened my eyes after the prayer, she was still, her jerking movement had stopped momentarily. She looked up at me, smiled and thanked me for bringing her so much comfort and peace. This is our privilege as Christians.

Technology is a wonderful tool also and we can use it to stay connected with the more vulnerable.

We can overcome fear and respond to this crises with courage and compassion in knowing we are not alone and that we are part of God’s plan. Hear God say to you today, “Do Not Fear”. Germany Kent says

“Let your life reflect the faith you have in God. Fear nothing and pray about everything. Be strong, trust God’s word, and trust the process.”

Let us join in prayer together and ask God to be merciful and stop the spread of this virus. We ask God to look after the elderly in our nursing homes and to give our healthcare staff the strength and energy to keep doing their job.  We pray that we do not panic. And we pray that  the peace that passes all understanding guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.


The Spirit, suffering, hope, lament, prayer and other things

A close friend, whom I love, is suffering right now – along with his family.

And isn’t it the case that the reality of suffering, especially of those we know, forces to the fore the question of how we think about suffering theologically? For how we respond to suffering reveals much of how we really think about God.

As a comparatively rich westerner, I’m conscious that it is all too easy to devalue that word to mean worries over job insecurity, a low bank balance or forgoing buying nice Christmas presents. Nor does it mean not being able to wear a cross around your neck at work.

No, I’m talking about the suffering caused by bombings of churches in Pakistan, the killing of Christians in Syria or imprisonment for your faith in China.

I’m also talking of the suffering of living with debilitating sickness, fighting long battles with cancer, losing yourself in mental illness or watching helplessly as a loved one dies and living with that grief every day.

At the huge risk of trivializing centuries of thinking about theodicy, suffering, God’s sovereignty and human responsibility (this is only a blog post after all), I’ll hesitantly suggest that there are at least two distinct popular Christian tendencies to the ‘brute fact’ of human suffering.

1. A tendency towards fatalistic pessimism

Suffering is part and parcel of the fallen human condition. It’s actually pretty impossible to imagine life without suffering and pain and a provisionality that ends in death.

In the words of Qoheleth, suffering is only a matter of time: there will be a time to dance, but also a time to mourn; a time to laugh but also a time to weep.  You may, especially if you are wealthy, have all sorts of protective layers in place to insulate you from suffering for as long as possible, but those layers can be ripped away in an instant. Money has its limits.

Christians after all, follow a crucified Messiah, and should have fairly robust and realistic theologies of suffering.  To put it in flowery academic language, bad things happen to God’s people, just as much as the next person. There are no guarantees of special treatment.

Or perhaps, going back to bombs in Pakistan, bad things happen to Christians even more than the next person. For a lot of believers today (and throughout the history of the church) being a Christian is most definitely bad for your health.

Suffering, in this framework, is something not to be welcomed (you’d have to be a masochist to do that) but it is something to be faced and accepted and expected. Prayers here are more for strength to endure what comes, rather than urgent pleas for healing and removal of suffering. There is a tendency to fatalism and at times it gets close to seeing God as the author of all suffering.  Whatever happens is his will.

This can lead to an emphasis on the cross; death, suffering and self-denial that is unattractive, life-denying and joyless. These are the guys who take the budgie’s swing out its cage on the Sabbath. If they aren’t going to have fun, then no-one else is either.

2.  A tendency towards naïve optimism

Christians are not only followers of a crucified Messiah but a resurrected Lord. They are also people of the empowering Spirit of God poured out at Pentecost. The Spirit is the gift of God to all who believe. He empowers for mission, guides, renews and freely gives his gifts for service. It is the Spirit who applies the victory of God in Christ: he brings life, unites believers with Christ, heals, gives eschatological hope and whose fruit is attractive and appealing – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

In this sense, the Christian life is life lived to the full in the here and now; it’s the future kingdom life in the present.

But it’s possible to make so much of victory, power, triumph, future hope now, that it leaves little room for lament, failure, opposition and difficulty. Symptoms of this optimistic ‘super-spirituality’ might include things like the following:

– a taboo of talking and thinking about death. In the past, Dr Neill tells me, there were whole traditions of how to prepare to die well. Nowadays, our deaths are meekly handed over to doctors and omniscient medicine to deal with.

– the eclipse of wisdom tradition such as the Psalms of lament in our worship

– a theology of emotional comfort where our prayers are for the avoidance of trials, difficulties and pain because God is assumed to be someone who is both able and willing to ensure we don’t suffer or have unpleasant experiences.

– where Christian faith becomes a resource to enable me to live a happy life. I’m loved and accepted and OK as I am. So there is little reverence and fear of God and the word ‘holiness’ sounds terribly old fashioned.

3. A Paradox

Now, I don’t have a grand ‘third way’ that charts an obvious path between these two poles. They both have much truth. I simply suggest that they need each-other for there is a deep-rooted paradox to the Christian life.

The paradox is that that there is no incompatibility between having the Spirit and experiencing suffering. Jesus, God’s Son, was anointed with the Spirit and immediately embarks on a mission that involves opposition, violence and ultimately death. John the Baptist likewise. Stephen who is ‘full of the Holy Spirit’ also is executed. Paul is led by and empowered by the Spirit but endures continual persecution, hardships, and finally in Rome the same fate as Jesus, John and Stephen. Seeing a pattern emerge?

The story of the church in Acts is of the triumph and victory of God. This includes dramatic healing and visible foretastes of the future kingdom of God in the present, but most often in and through suffering and weakness. The cross and Spirit are not in opposition to each other. It is the Spirit who enables and empowers believers to face suffering and persecution. And it is through that suffering that God’s power is evident to all. There is a privilege to suffer persecution and even death as Jesus did.

It seems then, that Christians are neither to be fatalistic pessimists nor naïve optimists. But are to be empowered and strengthened by the eschatological Spirit to face suffering with dignity and hope. They do not see God as the author of evil, they look forward with him to a world rid of suffering and death, disease and tears, violence and persecution – a world his Son has died to redeem. Suffering will not have the last word. It is precisely in the midst of suffering and weakness that God’s power is seen at work.

So how I am to pray for my friend and his family?

With tears. With urgency for healing. With lament at pain. With hope in the goodness and victory of God. Pray with me if you can.

An unexpected meeting in Monasterboice

IMG_0443The vast international readership of this blog may not quite appreciate the emotional and physical sense of well-being that impacts Irish people when that elusive yellow orb shows itself unhidden for a few days.

Last Friday was one such day – the end of a beautiful week. After a couple of day’s work up North, I was driving down the MI from Belfast to Dublin on a glorious Irish summer’s evening. Fields of rape seed would come into view, their incandescent yellow blazing incongruously alongside modest green pastureland.

As I passed the sign for Monasterboice, I felt prompted to turn off and go visit the monastic site sitting within view a half mile west of the road. It didn’t make sense. It was getting late, I had a way to go, I was tired.

I could see the broken top of the Round Tower poking up out of verdant chestnut trees, surrounded by a carpet of yellow. There was no-one around. Tourists had long since departed to their hotels. I climbed over the stone steps in the wall and wondered into the deserted graveyard.

Suddenly, now out of my comfortable isolated capsule of a car (and upbeat Springsteen anthems), I could feel the warmth of the setting sun, hear the mournful croaking calls of the rooks in the trees, smell the scented clean air, and, most of all, hear the gloriously peaceful silence of a sacred place.

The sun was setting, casting its longitudinal rays over the IMG_0482surrounding fields and onto the crucifixion scene on the extraordinarily tall and elegant 10th century West Cross. Nearby, Muiredach’s Cross (also 10th century) stood in the gathering shade; perfect, enigmatic, imposing – stories captured in stone. Also at the centre of its West face, a crucifixion panel – the cross in the middle of the cross. But the cross was not the end of the story – resurrection and future judgement are etched on the other side. Those Christian artists knew their stuff.

I had to wait about twenty minutes for shadow slowly to clear from the West Cross as the sun moved clear of the Round Tower to shine unimpeded on to its face.

Time, a short period beforehand, had seemed so compressed, urgent. Now, it didn’t seem to matter at all.IMG_0461

As I waited, sitting on the stone steps of the Round Tower, I heard a fluttering of wings, not once but twice. I could only have heard it when still and quiet. A pair of blue tits were zooming in and out of a tiny hole in the mortar of the monument, often perching on a handy gravestone with food in their mouths, before dashing straight into the crack, almost too fast to see.  Then they would poke their heads out before pelting for the cover of a yew tree.

After numerous attempts, I caught one of them on camera doing his/her emergency exit – instinctively not wanting to draw any unnecessary attention to the nest within the 1000 year old tower.

I wondered back to the car, noticing as I did so, how the sun was shining a spotlight on the foot of Muiredach’s Cross. I thought of Issac Watts’ surveying of the wondrous cross – the only right response IMG_0472bbeing one of thankful worship and celebration at its foot. This was what God was calling me that evening.

I drove home in no rush, Bruce stayed on mute; I felt calmer, peaceful, more aware of the spectacular glory of the Irish countryside in full bloom and more aware of the presence of God the creator.

Those magnificent ancient crosses had continued to do what they have been doing for centuries – silently telling, to anyone who has eyes to see and ears to hear, the story that changes all other stories. A story that puts everything in perspective and makes our self-important agendas and schedules seem, if not unimportant or trivial, somehow less about us fitting him into our lives and more about us understanding our place in God’s story.

IMG_0480I didn’t plan or ‘go looking’ for an encounter with God that Friday evening; but with a little silence, attention, reflection, listening and prayer, I believe that he came and graciously met me.

How about you ? Where has God ‘turned up’ in unexpected places at unexpected times and in unexpected ways?

Sundays in Mark (59) A moment of truth in the garden

This week, a very simple Sunday reflection on the Gospel of Mark.

Within the Gethsemane narrative in chapter 14 are these 2 verses

50Then everyone deserted him and fled.  51 A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, 52 he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.

Despite their recent sincere and passionate protestations of utter loyalty, when suddenly confronted with the ugly reality of armed guards in the middle of the night and all that they symbolised, to a man, the disciples flee. (And whether the naked young man is Mark himself is not that important, the point is he deserts Jesus in shame along with all the others).

I think sometimes what we really believe is revealed most profoundly, not in conversations, or in statements of faith and certainly not in blog posts (!) – but in sudden unexpected ‘moments of truth’. Where you have no time to plan or theorise, but are faced with an instantaneous choice:  to act with courage and/or say something true, or to act with cowardice and not act, say nothing or perhaps even ‘run away’ from the situation.

And for many Christians around the world such moments of truth do involve life and death decisions.

Such moments expose faith and character. And this moment in the garden exposes the disciples’ promises as empty words. To be blunt, deep down, when tested, they simply didn’t believe or trust Jesus. Arrest, torture and death did not form part of their expectations of following this Galilean Messiah.

The question this text asks me and you is, deep down, when confronted with a ‘moment of truth’ that may test your faith to the limit, will you keep trusting and believing in Jesus?

Sundays in Mark (58) Jesus Arrested

Continuing our simple Sunday reflections in the Gospel of Mark and the events in the Garden of Gethsemene.

This is a dramatic scene, full of pathos and utterly believable in its simultaneous tawdriness. It brings to mind a phrase I heard somewhere on ‘the banality of evil’.

An armed group are led by Judas under cover of darkness to Gethsemene. It is significant that they are sent by the three named strands of Jewish leadership – presumably with the authority and knowledge of the Sanhedrin. Israel has decisively rejected its Messiah; Judas is doing as Jesus predicted – and through their actions the Scriptures are being fulfilled.

The group have probably little idea of who Jesus is or why he is to be arrested. Jesus challenges the courage and legitimacy of their actions. Just as much today as then, the powerful want to keep suppression of their enemies well hidden from view.

Judas’ betrayal and Israel’s rejection raise deep questions around God’s election and human choice. The text simply states the facts but does not explain them. Israel and Judas are responsible for their actions, but their actions fit within the salvific purposes of God.

What do you make of this? (a small question I know!)

Jesus’ rhetorical question is an extraordinarily important one, especially in light of later church history.

It explicitly distances his mission, life and teaching on the kingdom of God from the use of violence. (In John’s account, Jesus heals the man’s severed ear and Peter’s use of the sword is rejected). The mission of the Messiah will not be achieved through coercion, threat, or political or military power.

And this means that followers of Jesus must follow the same path.

What challenges to you see for the contemporary church here?

Jesus Arrested

43Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.

44 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” 45 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. 46 The men seized Jesus and arrested him. 47 Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

48 “Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.”

Sundays in Mark (57) Gethsemene (2)

Continuing our simple Sunday reflections in the Gospel of Mark and the events in the Garden of Gethsemene.

Jesus detaches himself from his three companions and prays audibly that he might be exempt from ‘the hour’ and ‘this cup’. Both refer to his betrayal, impending arrest and execution. Back in 10:38 Jesus had referred to ‘the ‘cup’ with which he would drink – a cup of suffering and wrath. His prayer to his Father here shows that this cup is a cup that ‘belongs to God’ – a cup of divine judgement.

His ‘Abba’ prayer reveals a unique, close Father-Son relationship, yet this closeness does not mean the Father takes away the cup, or that the Son refuses to drink it. Jesus’ mission is a triune partnership: the obedient Son, sent by the Father, empowered by the Spirit.

A joint mission that is now leading straight towards Jesus’ voluntary, self-giving confrontation with all the physical, spiritual and political powers allied against him.

So while Jesus appears to face this fate alone (the disciples fail to ‘get’ what is going on and are asleep every time Jesus returns), behind the scenes, and despite appearances, his Father is with him.

The looming cross will be no accident or merely a verdict of ‘sinners’ (vs 41). Against all logic and expectation, it will reflect the astonishing decision, planning and self-giving action of God.

No wonder Paul later would talk of the mystery of God’s salvation being revealed.

The cross? No-one sees it coming but the Son of Man.


35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

39 Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. 40 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.

41 Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

Sundays in Mark (54) Last Supper 2

Continuing our simple Sunday reflections in the Gospel of Mark. This week part two of the Last Supper in the Upper Room.

With Easter Sunday next week, there are few more appropriate texts to consider than the significance of the Last Supper.

Jesus does a remarkable thing by taking the bread and identifying it with his body to be broken, and the wine with his blood to be poured out for the many. These are deeply Christological words; Jesus attaching profound spiritual significance to his impending death. This is a deliberate and symbolic inauguration of a new Passover, this time centered around the Son of Man. As long hoped, God has ‘returned’ to his people to bring liberation and redemption.

I like this image: the distribution of the broken bread speaks of Jesus’ presence with the disciples. And so it anticipates the resurrection and speaks of his presence as Christians celebrate the Lord’s Supper today.

In the Passover ritual,  the third cup of wine would have been taken by the leader of the household with these words:

“May the All Merciful One makes us worthy of the days of the Messiah and of the life of the world to come. He brings the salvation of his king. He shows covenant-faithfulness to his anointed, to David and to his seed forever. He makes peace in his heavenly places. May he secure peace for us and for all Israel. And say you, Amen.”

Jesus linking of his blood with the cup, connects his death to covenant sacrifice. His death will be violent. It speaks of a new covenant for the redeemed people of God. It will have a spiritual significance far beyond one man’s life.  It will be vicarious, ‘for the many’, bringing to mind texts like Is 53:12 and Mark 10:45 as well as new covenant hopes of Jeremiah 31:31-33.

This second word therefore, tells the disciples that the suffering and death of the Son of Man, rather than being a disastrous defeat, will establish a new order and will fulfil the saving purposes of God.

Verse 25 is significant: this new order is itself not permanent. As Christians re-enact this Last Supper, they therefore do so with joy and thanksgiving, but also in hope – looking forward to the return of the glorious Son of Man and the final establishment of the kingdom of God in all its fulness.

The Last Supper

17 When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. 18 While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.”

19 They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?”

20 “It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. 21 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

22 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”

23 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.

24 “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. 25 “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

26 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Sundays in Mark (53) Last Supper 1

Continuing our simple Sunday reflections in the Gospel of Mark.

This week Mark 14:12-16 and the preparations for the Last Supper

The text is written strongly indicating that the meal Jesus and his followers are about to eat is the Passover.

It also reads that Jesus has prearranged things. A man carrying a jar of water would have been unusual. He could have been recognised and followed discreetly. These steps speak of the context of tension and potential arrest in the precincts of the city.

The owner of the room was presumably taking a risk getting involved with the controversial, radical and dangerous Galiliean prophet and healer with messianic pretensions.   Also presumably he had prepared the room for the disciples, perhaps also providing the sacrificial lamb.

The disciples would have laid out the spices, bitter herbs, unleavened bread and wine and the roasted lamb, ready for the others’ arrival.

I read these verses and think of the innumerable Christians through the centuries who have followed the example of the unnamed man carrying the water jar. Like him, unnoticed, anonymous, and uncelebrated …. But like him, willing to risk everything for the honour and privilege of serving and following Jesus.

And that call is as real and searching today for all disciples of the Messiah.

The Last Supper

12 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

13 So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. 14 Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.”

16 The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.

Sundays in Mark (52) Enter Judas

Continuing our simple Sunday reflections in the Gospel of Mark. This week 14:10-11 and the sudden introduction of Judas’ act of betrayal.

In 10:1-2 the chief priests and teachers of the law were seeking to arrest and kill Jesus without causing a public uproar. Here Judas is seeking to betray Jesus and so two parties’ interests meet. ‘External’ opposition is joined by ‘internal’ betrayal. Judas would have opportunity to arrange a surprise arrest out of sight of the crowds.

Mark’s sparse text gives no real hint as to Judas’ motive. Money is promised as a reward but it is not clear if this was just a ‘bonus’ or the actual reason. Had Jesus’ upside kingdom message deeply disillusioned him?

Whatever the truth, Judas acts out of ruthhess personal self-interest in utter contrast to the immediately preceding beautiful act of selfless devotion by the unnamed woman.

One sacrifices Jesus to his own agenda, the other sacrifices the most precious thing she has for Jesus.

One resorts to lies and subterfuge, the other to risky and transparent vulnerability.

One chooses the route of power and violence, the ofter of service and love.


Judas’ Betrayal

10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. 11 They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

Sundays in Mark (51) : a beautiful act

Continuing our simple Sunday reflections in the Gospel of Mark.

This week an astonishing act of love by an unnamed woman.

Mark sets the story in the context of mounting opposition with plans afoot to kill Jesus. The woman’s actions are to be read in light of Jesus’ impending death. Bethany is the last stop on the pilgrim route before Jerusalem.

Mark’s account is sparse in the extreme. Her motives remain unexplained. Her character is not described. Simon the Leper is assumed to be well known. Her identity is not revealed.

The nard was extremely precious, perhaps a treasured family possession.

Her actions reveal her profound love for Jesus. A love that is not sexual in nature but indicative of her ‘seeing’ something of Jesus’ unique messianic identity and responding accordingly.

Jesus interprets her actions at a deeper level, reading them through the lens of the cross and her annointing of his head as an act of preparation for burial. Implicit here is his knowledge that his will be a criminal’s death, to be denied annointing prior to burial.

Jesus has little time for convention, legalistic judgements and the niceties of etiquette. He looks to the heart and pronounces her actions ‘beautiful’.

Hear that word – beautiful.

Such was the beauty of her behaviour Jesus pronounces that it will never be forgotton and she will be honoured and remembered, as indeed she has been.

Notice that this is possibly the highest praise that anyone receives from Jesus in the gospels. Given to an anonymous woman.

What implications do you think Jesus’ radical affirmation of this woman has for the status and role of women in the church today?

Jesus Anointed at Bethany

1 Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. 2 “But not during the festival,” they said, “or the people may riot.”

3 While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

4 Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? 5 It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

6 “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8 She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. 9 Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”