In a rather startling turn, right before Jesus’ enters his period of suffering, the Lenten readings move us to a place of joy and celebration.
Isaiah promises the exiles a new salvation of God; the psalm celebrates this salvation as it is realised; Paul celebrates the righteousness he has found in Christ, which far surpasses the value of the “goodness” he enjoyed under the law; and Mary celebrates Jesus and her extravagant love for him through this almost embarrassing public display.
This can be quite shocking in the midst of the discipline and confession that usually characterises the Lenten period. But, the message is clear – the journey through the desert is a journey toward life and joy, for it leads us to recognise, and own for ourselves, the truth that Christ brings us salvation – life in all its fullness.
Mary, Paul and the people of Israel all received this gift with tremendous joy, and wild expressions of love. This passionate worship of the Saviour, is a challenge to us to allow our faith to be not just of the head, but of the heart, and not just of the way of justice, judgment or righteousness, but also of the way of joy, celebration and appreciation. And, although Jesus proclaims Mary’s act as a preparation for his burial – with the shadow of the cross looming over this scene – the promise of God’s life, and the demonstration that neither evil nor death can extinguish the love of Christ, give cause for celebration even as we prepare to remember the sacrifice.
May you know the joy of celebration in the midst of your Lenten fast this week.