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.
As we enter Holy Week, we are challenged in our preconceptions, and challenged in our faith. Mary, Jesus’ contemplative friend, is for once busy, but busy doing something almost unthinkable to the eyes of some of Jesus’ friends, and perhaps to the eyes of the world. She has taken expensive perfume and is busy anointing the feet of Jesus.
This is the end of a long journey for Jesus, and his feet may need special care and attention. But the point – as we ponder on Mary’s actions – is once again about the focus of our attention and our worship. The value of the perfume could indeed be spent on other things, including the poor. But at this moment, in this place, it is time to stop; as the shadow of the cross looms, it is to God that due reverence is given. The gift of the perfume will be returned by the gift of a life. Jesus – with his feet refreshed – will voluntarily walk the way of the cross, and give his life for the salvation of humanity, for the salvation of you and me.
So, like Mary, let us commit this week to spend time in prayerful meditation, wasting time for and with God as we sit at Jesus’ feet at the City gate, and follow him on his last journey to Jerusalem, to his passion, death and resurrection.