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. (John 12:1-3)
Yesterday we found Jesus mobbed but probably exhilarated by the crowds as he made his entry into the great city to the shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David!”
This day, Monday, weary from all the excitement and eager once again to be welcomed by his beloved friends Martha, Mary and Lazarus, he makes the short trip to Bethany with his disciples.
Apparently he was expected; a quiet dinner had been arranged and Jesus was to have quite an intimate surprise–right there in front of God and everybody. Mary loved Jesus in a special way, while her sister, Martha, was in the kitchen cooking. She got down, washed Jesus dusty, tired, weary bare feet and massaged, soothed, and caressed them.
Suddenly she got up, went to a nearby shelf and got a beautiful alabaster bottle filled with the finest aromatic spikenard. She broke it open! and the whole house was instantly transformed by its wonderful aroma.
She poured it liberally over the Master’s feet. (And as we know Judas objected strenuously ~ but let’s not bother with that.)
(Permit me this Ignatian-style reflection ~ a bit R-rated.)
A sensual woman caresses a 33-year old man with perfumed oil. The oil squishes down between his toes; it soothes his weary feet. She rubs it in circular motions around the ankles.
Then Mary teases him dripping some, drop / drop on his shins, watching the glistening oil slither down to his feet.
She leans back on her haunches and waits to get his reaction.
He grins, and raises his eyeballs toward the ceiling.
Then she pounces on him and rubs his feet firmly and furiously and backs away again, then just looks at him and smiles.
He returns the gaze, obviously, very pleased, very delighted, very relaxed.
Then she leans forward and begins to dry his feet with her hair!
This process takes a long time.
Oil takes a long to come out–just being dried by hair, as lovely as Mary’s is.
Now, dear friends, you can’t get more sensuous than that!
I wonder what were the thoughts and feelings of the Lord of the universe’s in this most intimate of male–female encounters. Perhaps this most unusual, very creative experience might have been as intimate, as soul-connecting as intercourse itself.
I wouldn’t even dare to imagine. I would simply let him have his own thoughts and feelings.
The sacred text doesn’t say, but we can intimate from what we already know that Jesus is already very comfortable with Mary who used to sit gaga-eyed at Jesus’ feet (Luke 10:38-42.)
Was it sexual? No. But it sure as heck, was sensual!
Did he enjoy the experience?
I’m quite sure he did.
Jesus was a whole, integrated man.
Was he embarrassed to have that happen in front of the others? Quite sure not.
He was with people with whom he could “let this hair down,” although Mary probably got a good talkin’ to by her sister in the kitchen later! Jesus, unlike many of us, was not afraid to be himself in any and all circumstances–as is our dear Pope Francis–God love and keep him!
That Monday of that of Holy Week two Millennia ago was a day of relaxation for our Lord. He was able to make it a sacrament of the present moment as he put aside concern about the events that lay ahead.
In William Barclay’s commentary on this passage, he has a series of little character sketches.
First, Martha. She loved Jesus, but she was a practical woman and the only way she could show her love was by working with her hands by cooking and serving. She always gave what she could.
Then there’s Mary. We see three things about her love in this story. We see love’s extravagance. She took the most precious thing she possessed and spent it all on Jesus. We see love’s humility. It was a sign of honor to anoint someone’s head, but she anointed Jesus’ feet. And then we see love’s unselfconsciousness. Mary wiped his feet with her hair. In Palestine no woman would appear in public with her hair unbound But That was a sign of an immoral woman.Mary never even thought of that.
But there’s something else here. The house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment. Many Fathers of the Church have seen a double meaning here. That the whole Church was filled with the sweet memory of Mary’s action.
Then there’s the character of Judas. We see Jesus’ trust in Judas. As early as John 6:70, John shows us Jesus was well aware that there was a traitor within the ranks. It may be that he tried to touch Judas’ heart by making him treasurer. And here, in the house of Jesus’ friends, he had just seen an action of surpassing loveliness and he called it extravagant waste. He was an embittered man and took the embittered view of things.
And the scene ends with the mob coming to see Lazarus and the chief priests plotting to kill Jesus.
help us, too, to make our present moments a sacrament.
Help us to fully give ourselves to the moment we are in,
embracing it, with eyes and ears wide open,
putting all other concerns aside.
For that moment is where life happens.
We may. not. get. another.
And now before you go, here’s the beautiful hymn, Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” Click here.