As Holy Week begins, today’s gospel brings us to a meal in Bethany honoring Jesus following the resurrection of Lazarus. Raising Lazarus from the dead is the great sign John’s Gospel gives for understanding the death and resurrection of Jesus we remember this week. Jesus came to bring life through his own death and resurrection. (John 12,1-11) This is his last meal before the Passover supper, his arrest, death and resurrection.
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, grateful for the life of her brother and 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. There’s only a passing reference to evil in our gospel reading. Judas, “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 honor the one they love. Lazarus is the brother of us all who “sit in the shadow of death.” Mary represents us all.
An artist friend of mine painted this picture of Mary anointing Jesus. How fitting that Holy Week begins with this gospel when, like Mary, we’re called to kneel and pour out the precious oil of our love on 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
With Mary of Bethany we thank you for your love and your promise of life. May we love you in return and believe in your promise.
Morning and Evening Prayer here.
Children’s Prayers here.