We do not know the woman’s name. Jesus tells those with him not to scold her for anointing his head: “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is told, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”
The poor are always with us. So often those words are remembered out of their context in this story. But the context matters. The unnamed woman has taken luxury items—an alabaster jar and an expensive perfumed oil—and wasted them, so it appears. But by this act she means to honor a great religious innovator.
Jesus spent his career asking people to look at the world and each other in new ways. And when he says, “you always have the poor with you...but you will not always have me,” I think he means to make a distinction between thinking of people in categories—“the poor”—and recognizing the unique insight and abilities of particular individuals.
If you are economically blessed in any measure, what courageous, creative, compassionate steps will you take to encourage someone who does a new and better thing? What expensive oil will you pour, and on whose insightful, innovative, inefficient, disorganized head will you pour it?
Take courage in your own resources and abilities. Commit to living your faith. Keep an eye out for others’ gifts, and see how you can encourage them—what oil can you pour? And wherever the good news is told, what you have done will be told in remembrance of you—even when nobody remembers your name.