Fifth Sunday of Lent
Six dcame to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary 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. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, "Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?" (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.) Jesus said, "Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me." John 12:1-8
It is amazing just how much wisdom John can pack into eight sparse verses of the gospel. A character study of Mary, Martha and Judas, a portent of Calvary and an insight into divine love. C.S. Lewis captured the essence of this gospel, when he wrote to a friend that: “The allegorical sense of (Mary’s) great action dawned on me the other day. The alabaster box which one must break over (Christ’s) holy feet is one’s heart… And the content becomes perfume only when it is broken. While they are safe inside, they are more like sewage.”
How much sewage do we carry around in our hearts because we don’t open them up to Jesus? How much pride; how many resentments; how much anger and envy do we tote around for a lifetime? Internalized, under pressure they stink, contaminating our whole lives, infecting those around us. But have the courage to pour out your heart at the feet of Jesus and the sludge of life becomes the fragrance of faith.
Jesus understands and appreciates Mary’s primal outpouring of love. She’s giving the best she has to the one who has raised her brother from the dead. Jesus is no ordinary guest. And this is no ordinary gift. She doesn’t wrap it and have FEDEX deliver it. She throws herself at the feet of the Savior and extravagantly anoints them with precious perfume. Then in total supplication she wipes the feet of Jesus with her hair. As expressions of devotion go, it doesn’t get more complete than this chaste, yet total, surrender to love.
How different from Martha the worker bee. It is the Martha’s of the world who hold us all together. Day in day out they are the nurturers of our families. They set the table, without which there would be no feast and no precious anointing. As in all of our gospel accounts, Martha and Mary are clearly two separate characters with very different dispositions. But they can also be seen as two different aspects of a single character; two distinct aspects of love… service and adoration. It is a reminder of what God holds precious. He doesn’t count the number of pies you bake for the church picnic or the size of your donation. He does measure and value the love you bring to the task.
And finally there is Judas. He talks a good game. But his pieties are totally self-serving. He is skimming from the purse and sees Mary’s outpouring of love as a lost opportunity to dip in for more. Jesus sees through him and still loves him. Judas hears the gospel every day from Christ’s own lips. Yet he keeps the treachery in his heart and it festers til it consumes him and betrays Jesus. In the end he was never able to purge his heart and pour it out to the crucified Jesus.
Are we able to open up? Are we able to get truly honest with ourselves and with God? You’ll find that when you do; when you crack open your heart and pour it on Jesus, it will smell like heaven.
God love you!