A year ago today I was ordained a priest at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, by The Right Reverend Mark S. Sisk. The picture to the right is of my hands being anointed by Bishop Sisk with holy oil: a symbolic act of making my hands ready for blessing and healing.
In John's Gospel, Jesus is at Lazarus' house (yet again). This time Martha has prepared a feast for him, while Mary anoints his feet with a pound of costly perfume and wipes his perfumed feet with her hair. This anointing of Jesus' feet was a symbolic act presaging his death and entombment. Jesus was changed after this anointing, just as I'm sure Mary and all present were changed.
Anointing someone with healing oil is one of the things a priest does at a sick bed and at the bedside of someone who is dying. Anointing changes someone. There is some inward physical shift that makes us no longer the same: we can never go back to being a person who has not been anointed once the deed has been done to us. We can deny it, not talk about it, pretend it didn't happen, but deep within ourselves we know we are different. Much like being a Christian makes us different and with that difference comes a responsibility to live into and be models of the radical inclusivity that Jesus professed for us.
Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.