LEAVING JERICHO WITH THE DISCIPLES, Jesus began His last journey to Jerusalem. Six days before the Passover they reached Bethany, the home of the family of Lazarus, whom Jesus loved. On the Sabbath they were offered a supper at the house of Simon the Leper, and the family of Lazarus was also present. Lazarus himself reclined at the table with Jesus and the other guests, and Martha served.
While they were at table, Mary, the sister of Lazarus, came to Jesus carrying an alabaster jar of ointment. Breaking open the jar, she poured out the contents, anointing His head and His feet. Then she dried the feet of Jesus with her hair.
The house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment. It was genuine oil of spikenard, one of the most precious of oriental perfumes, and the disciples began grumbling about the waste of the ointment.
One of them voiced his resentment openly, saying to the other disciples:
“Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii, and given to the poor?”
It was Judas Iscariot who was speaking. He had really no interest in helping the poor, but he was the treasurer of the apostolic band and he used to pilfer the funds entrusted to him. We can appreciate his anxiety more when we consider that he was to betray his Master for a sum ten times less than the three hundred denarii at which he valued the spikenard with which Mary anointed Jesus.
The general reaction to Mary’s generous homage was censure and complaint, but Jesus came to her defense, saying to her critics:
“Let her be. Why do you trouble her? She has done Me a good turn. For the poor you have always with you, and whenever you want you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me. She has done what she could; she has anointed My body in preparation for burial. Amen I say to you, wherever in the whole world this gospel is preached, this also that she has done shall be told in memory of her.”
Meditation: How prodigal Mary was in her love for Christ! There was no narrow weighing and measuring in her gift-making. It was all or nothing, and with Mary it had to be all. Is my service of Christ only what is required by His law? In my practice of virtue, do I merely remain this side at sin?
Information from The Life of Christ “Our Lord’s Life with Lesson in His Own Words for Our Life Today” The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 191-192. © 1954 edited by Reverend John P. O’Connell, MASTD and Jex Martin, following mainly A Chronological Harmony of the Gospels by Stephen J Hartdegen OFM NIHIL OBSTAT John A McMahon; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago August 1, 1953. Print. Drawing by Albert H Winkler.