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.
Monday, Holy Week
A gift of life leads to a sentence of death. We’re called to a meal in Bethany by these verses of John’s gospel. It follows the resurrection of Lazarus and is given to honor Jesus by his friends. It will be the last meal the gospel records before the Passover supper he will eat with his disciples.
Faithful Martha serves it; Lazarus newly alive, is at the table. But the one who draws our attention most is Mary, their sister. Sensing what is to come, she kneels before Jesus to anoint his feet with precious oil and dry them with her hair. “And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.”
The precious oil that fills the house is an effusive sign of her love and gratitude; it also signifies an anointing of Jesus for his burial.
Only in passing does the gospel mention the evil in play that will bring Jesus to his death. Judas, one of his own disciples, “the one who would betray him” complains that the anointing is a waste, but his voice is silenced. This is a time for believers to pay tribute to the one they love.
How fitting to begin Holy Week with this gospel! This week we recall the events that lead to the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus. These events are surrounded by mysteries too many to name. But we don’t have to name them all.
Like Mary, we kneel and pour out the precious oil of our love on him who brings us life by giving up his own life.