Lectionary Passage for Today: John 12: 1-11
Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.2There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him.3Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.4But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said,5“Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?”6(He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.)7Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial.8You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”9When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.10So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well,11since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.
Perhaps no one noticed when Mary got up and left the room. Perhaps no one noticed when she quietly returned carrying a jar full of oil. But then they noticed…With drama befitting a king, she raised the jar, broke the seal and in one movement, poured the entire bottle onto Jesus’ feet. Then as the oil slowly runs down his feet and begins to drip to the floor, she wipes his feet with her hair. The whole house is filled with this overwhelming fragrance. And the empty jar is cast aside.
In our faith understanding, the Sacrament of Baptism is the beginning of our life as a Christian, a new life in Christ, the beginning of a journey toward oneness with God, toward the life of Christ. The waters of Baptism remind us of God’s ever-Presence in our lives, of God’s claim on us, and of the great love that God has for us that was revealed in Christ. It is sacramental because it is God’s love made visible for us. Through this sacrament, we enter this journey with God. And the Eucharist is, for us, an entering into that Presence of God. It makes God’s Presence real. We don’t understand it. It’s a wonderful holy mystery. But somewhere in that bread, somewhere in that juice, is the very real Presence of God.
But you can’t help but listen to the story of Mary’s anointing without hearing the same language—Mary took, poured, and wiped. We will hear those same words this Thursday in the account of Jesus’ last meal: Jesus took the bread, poured out the wine, and wiped the feet of the disciples, and through these common gestures and such common touch, Jesus shows us what true love is. And as Mary takes, and pours, and wipes, she shows that same love toward Christ, and as the storm clouds begin to gather outside, this small crowded house in Bethany becomes a cathedral, the bottle that held the oil becomes a font, and this simple meal becomes a Eucharist. Through her touch, through her love, the ordinary becomes sacred. Mary enters Jesus’ life and he becomes part of her. Her life becomes an extravagant sacrament that shows Jesus’ love to the world. And she, with Jesus, is on the journey to the Cross. And the whole world is now forever filled with the fragrance of that perfume.
So, how much is too much? Where did Mary cross the line? Where was the point when someone could have reasonably said, “stop, that’s enough”? Well, the truth is, I wish I could be more like her, wish I could give all of myself without holding back, wish I could break the jar and break the rules, and do something extravagant for love rather than for the right reason. Because in this moment, Mary began walking with Jesus to the cross. In this moment, she abandoned herself and poured everything out. In that moment she became sacrament. I don’t think it was too much.
In this holiest of weeks, become sacrament. Do not count the cost. Break the seal and pour yourself out.
Grace and Peace,