John’s gospel describes a meal in Bethany honoring Jesus following the resurrection of Lazarus.(John 12,1-11) It’s the last meal before the Passover supper. His gift of life leads to a sentence of death.
Faithful Martha serves the meal; Lazarus newly alive, is at the table. But the one drawing most of our attention is Mary, their sister who, sensing what’s coming, 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, an effusive sign of her love and gratitude, also anoints Jesus for his burial. Only in passing does the gospel mention that evil is in play here. Judas, “the one who would betray him,” complains that the anointing is a waste, but his voice is silenced. Believers are honoring the one they love.
How fitting that Holy Week begins with this gospel when, like Mary, we kneel and pour out the precious oil of our love upon him whose precious life is poured out for us.
“May the holy cross of our good Jesus be ever planted in our hearts so that our souls may be grafted onto this tree of life and by the infinite merits of the death of the Author of life we may produce worthwhile fruits of penance.” (St. Paul of the Cross,Letter 11)
Let my prayer rise up before you like incense,
The raising of my hands like an evening offering. Ps 141
Your sentence to death frees us,
Your blood is poured out for us,
We breathe the fragrance of your love.