Gospel according to John (12:1-12)
Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served, while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him. Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. Then Judas the Iscariot, one of his disciples, and the one who would betray him, said, “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?” He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions. So Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”
The large crowd of the Jews found out that he was there and came, not only because of him, but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too, because many of the Jews were turning away and believing in Jesus because of him.
Reflection: It’s easy to do things for people when you love them. It’s easy to spend all your worth or to wipe the feet on someone you love and adore. This passage gives us a good deal of meaning through its examples in this scripture. Mary’s gift of love, along with Judas’s deceitfulness, has greater significance because of how it contributes to a series of developments.
- Jesus’ “hour” is near, so He spends time with His friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus right after the crucial scene of Lazarus’s rebirth. That is the “sign” that brings many to believe in Jesus, many to flock to him, yet others plot his death. When Jesus mentions his burial, this confirms that his end is coming. Yet Lazarus’s presence at the table confirms that death does not speak the final word.
- Jesus forges the connection between the anointing and his burial. Jesus suggests that Mary’s keeping the perfume in her possession and using it on him now have consequently achieved a greater, more meaningful purpose that she perhaps intended: announcing the nearness of Jesus’ death and preparing for his burial.
- The sweet smell of Mary’s perfume counters the stench that came from Lazarus’s tomb. Life and death or wholeness and corruption remain contrasted throughout both scenes.
- Mary’s wiping of Jesus’ feet foreshadows the time when he will wipe the feet of his disciples. This makes her as a model disciple, for the washing and wiping of feet expresses a unity with Jesus and reflects his command.
- Readers know that Judas is “a devil,” but John chooses this point in the narrative to reveal him as a thief. This creates a clear opposition between him and Mary. He is false; she is true. He is greedy and self-serving; she is generous and enthusiastic in her devotion.
St. Paul of the Cross says, “Since we, as Catholics, know the end of the story, there is a temptation to gloss over the grim reality of Holy Week. Although Jesus has indeed conquered sin and death and has in fact opened up the gates of Heaven to us all, his suffering and death–this act of perfect love–was an integral part of the process. His redemption of our souls was only made possible by his suffering, death, and Resurrection. “Do not pass one day without devoting a half-hour, or at least a quarter of an hour, to meditation on the sorrowful Passion of your Savior. Have a continual remembrance of the agonies of your crucified Love, and know that the greatest saints, who now, in heaven, triumph in holy love, arrived at perfection in this way”
Worship of God is the right thing to do and it’s an act that will transform us into the person you were made to be. We were made for worship and adoration of God, and this is accomplished when we humbly honor our Lord with our whole self. We need to worship Him, honor Him and make Him the center of our lives. We need to humble ourselves before Him and serve Him. Not because He needs us to treat Him this way, but because we need to treat Him this way. Honoring Him in our humility and love is what we need to do for our own holiness and happiness. This Gospel invites us to look to Jesus and to make Him the center of our adoration and love. It invites us to willingly pour out all our labor (wages) for Him (symbolized by the perfume worth 300 days’ wages). This story invites us to do the same. Nothing is worth more than an act of our worship.
Action of the Day: Reflect, today, upon the depth of your own adoration of our Lord. Are you willing to “spill” your whole livelihood upon Him? Is He worth more to you than 300 days’ wages? Is He the most central part of your life? Do you daily humble yourself before Him and pour out your heart to Him in prayer? Reflect upon this humble act of worship that Mary offers Jesus and seek to imitate her beautiful example. Whose feet will you wipe?