John 12:1-8 Six days before the Passover Jesus came 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."
Reflection As a priest given the privilege of anointing let me just say this. Whether I am placing a frankincense scented sign of the cross on an infant’s pristine forehead or anointing an elder person’s furrowed brow and curled feet on their deathbed, the confluence of touch, and smell, and prayer arouses Divine Presence and reaches beyond time. This is truly holy ground. I believe this is what Jesus’ disciple Mary recognized. She was meeting Jesus on holy ground. Mary could see beyond external appearances to something more, to the spiritual dimension. Mary recognized Divine Presence in and of and with Jesus.
By contrast, Judas was locked into worldly affairs. He could not see beyond external appearances and so he took advantage of Jesus’ situation for his personal gain. Because his heart was hardened he did not recognize Jesus nor could he recognize himself. The deepest truth of Judas’ self, that he too was a beloved son of God, was hidden from him. Judas could not recognize divine presence with him. But the heart of Mary, the true disciple, was broken open with love. Putting her faith in something more than external appearances, love poured through her extravagantly, like expensive perfume released from a bottle permeating the air and infusing the holy ground.
This week I had a glimpse of what extravagant love looks like when a woman shared with me her experience as a caregiver. The person given to this woman’s care is not what we would describe as a docile dying woman. She tends to be querulous and wearing. She has been dying for a very long time. Nonetheless the caregiver sees beyond the unpleasant external appearances and veritably glows when describing sitting with this woman, ministering to her every need and demand, often at great physical and emotional personal expense. What I saw in the face and heard in the words of the tireless caregiver was extravagant love, poured through her like expensive perfume, recognizing the holy ground hidden in plain sight.
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