Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where he had raised Lazarus, the dead man, to life. Now they gave a dinner for him, and while Martha waited on them, Lazarus sat at the table with Jesus.
Then Mary took a pound of costly perfume, made from genuine spikenard, and anointed the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair. And the whole house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
Judas Iscariot—the disciple who was to betray Jesus—remarked, “This perfume could have been sold for three hundred silver coins, and the money given to the poor.” Judas, indeed, had no concern for the poor; he was a thief, and as he held the common purse, he used to help himself to the funds.
But Jesus spoke up, “Leave her alone. Was she not keeping it for the day of my burial? (The poor you always have with you, but you will not always have me.)”
Many Jews heard that Jesus was there and they came, not only because of Jesus, but also to see Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests thought about killing Lazarus as well, for many of the Jews were drifting away because of him, and believing in Jesus.
It has often been noted that love often inspires people to do things which, seen from the angle of cold reason, are downright unreasonable. And this applies not only to romantic love, but also to the love that binds a parent to a child, a friend to a friend, a citizen to a country, a disciple to a master.
In today’s gospel reading we witness such an unreasonable action inspired by pure love. In a gesture of extravagant lavishness, Mary of Bethany anoints the feet of Jesus, her beloved Master, with a costly perfume worth, in the estimation of Judas Iscariot, “three hundred silver coins,” that is, a year’s salary for an unskilled laborer—a huge sum of money. When she is criticized by Judas for her outrageous wastefulness, Jesus defends her: she is only anticipating his impending funeral, he explains.
When is the last time I did something extravagantly generous for God? Something which reasonable people would call unreasonable—but which God would warmly praise? When did I last throw caution to the winds, burn my bridges, go “all the way” for the love of God?
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