Isaiah 42:1-9 / Psalm 36:5-11 / Hebrews 9:11-15 / John 12:1-11
Imagine how Jesus felt sitting at a dinner table with lively conversation flowing around him and a sense of joy pervading the air as Lazarus, Mary, Martha and Jesus’ disciples celebrated Jesus’ recent miraculous raising of Lazarus from the dead. Imagine how Mary and Martha felt…Jesus has returned to spend time with them and now they could show their love and gratitude to him for bringing their brother back to life. In the midst this celebration, perhaps Jesus took a moment of introspection. He was acutely aware of the Pharisees and chief priests’ increasing efforts to arrest him. Perhaps his gaze lingers on this family he deeply loves as he knows it may be his last time to be with them before his death.
Have you ever been with a crowd of people and still felt completely alone? Lately, even though you are perhaps with family members and housemates more than usual, is there a part of you that feels no one truly understands what you are going through? Does it seem that no one really sees how afraid you are of what is coming next?
I wonder if Jesus felt a little like this, these disciples and friends understood him perhaps better than most. Yet despite his predictions about his fate, they still could not grasp the death he would face just days away. That night, only Jesus truly knew that when he departed his friends’ home it would be onto a road that would lead him to the cross.
And then, Mary approaches Jesus, kneels beside him, and begins to anoint his feet with perfume rich and deep with fragrance. As he watches Mary offer this act of devotion, I imagine Jesus is close to tears again. Someone does understand a little of what he is going through! He marvels that Mary intuitively knows his body needs anointing for its upcoming burial. When Judas complains to Jesus about the extravagance of Mary’s gift, Jesus reminds him you will “not always have me” with you.
John 12:3 tells us “the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. From this we know Mary is not stingy with her gift. As the perfume pours over Jesus’ feet, its scent overpowers other aromas in the house, even those wafting up from the dishes Mary had prepared for dinner. Perhaps the perfume’s scent was so strong, Jesus, the family, and disciples could almost taste it. With what fragrance can we fill our homes during these days when we are more bound in them? Jewish tradition viewed the fragrance from incense in the temple as prayers rising to God. What prayers of petition and thanksgiving are rising in the atmosphere of our living spaces? In today’s gospel story, there was not a corner of the house which escaped the fragrance that flowed from Mary’s act of devotion to her Teacher. What acts of devotion can we do this week as a sign to Jesus that we remember him and his extravagant love for us? In what ways can our love for Jesus pour out extravagantly onto those around us?