God is going to send a messiah to rescue the people once again. Yes, once again. Embedded in this text is a reminder of the exodus. The central story of the Jewish tradition. Pictures of chariots and horses, armies, warriors, the sea, and a path through the mighty waters. Embedded in this story is the reminder also that the people do not remember. But Judaism as I understand it, is very strongly into remembering. Even in this text that challenges the people to not remember has bits and pieces of memories.
So which is it? Should we remember, or should we not remember? Honestly. What should we remember, and what should we not remember? What’s worth remembering? The things that are lost in our lives are the hardest things to forget. Those things that we’ve lost forever embed themselves in our muscle memory— the hug of a grandmother or favourite aunt that we can never give again or giggles of a child we hear faintly when we close our eyes or the wise words or unwavering support of a dead friendship.
Memory lies within our bodies even when we wish to forget with our minds. Moving on requires remembering. So again— what should we remember, and what should we not remember? What’s worth remembering? Is it possible to hold onto a rescuing God while not remembering the means by which that rescuing God has acted in the past? Is it possible to cling to the rescuer and not the escape route? Chances are, God’s not going to use the same escape route anyway.
And while we are reflecting on what is remembered, let us reflect on how we view the story of the raising of Lazarus from death. I bet the religious authorities were not willing to remember God’s promises and sought instead to find reason to begin the final plot against Jesus. Mary seems to remember and understand that Jesus is to die, and anoints him with costly nard as if for burial. She wipes his feet with her hair. Judas complains that the nard is too extravagant. The perfume could have been sold and given to the poor.
I wonder if the image or what he remembered raised for Judas his true objection. An objection to the sensuality of Mary’s gesture, her hair, dripping with scented oil, bathing Jesus’ feet. Jesus tells Judas to leave Mary alone. Then Jesus announces publicly that Mary’s extravagant gesture has a message. “She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial.” Did the others give any sign that they heard him? Had Peter already learned his lesson not to object to references to Jesus’ death?
Embarrassed, did they awkwardly ignore him? Were they tired by now of his Passion predictions? Did their memories fail them especially the promises from Hebrew Scripture and those Jesus made to them? Mary heard him. A wordless dialogue takes place. Jesus understands her extravagant gesture. It is as if a wordless conversation of breathtaking intimacy takes place between them. Mary says, “I know.” And Jesus acknowledges— “I know that you know.” Mary, relieved, sighs, “Now I know that you know that I know.” Love’s deep silence surrounds their mutual understanding— a sphere unshuttered by words.
Only love and prayer can enter the soul’s darkness with such intimacy. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. Memories were touched and made and the future became the present. Jesus in that moment had bought into their presence where his journey was to lead. In a beautiful intimate moment memories were stirred. What stirs our memories and guides us in our actions?