Monday in Holy Week – John 12:1-11
After the ‘loud hosannas’ of the palm parade have faded and the Passion story echoes in the distance, we continue along the Holy week path that is the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Suffering.
John 12:1-11 invites us to witness an act of singular devotion: Mary anointing Jesus’ feet and wiping them with her hair. “Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard…” Nard is an aromatic, flowering plant of the Valerian family that grows in the Himalayas, called spikenard, among other names. From its rhizomes, a thick, amber coloured essential oil is made and it is used as a perfume, an incense, a medicine and in ancient times, a flavouring. This reading also includes that lovely verse, evocative of sensuality and of beauty, “The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”
In the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, it is an unnamed woman(often surmised as a prostitute or even Mary of Magdala, in her forgiven state)and she anoints Jesus’ head. Each version notes the reaction from the disciples, their anger, but in John’s version Judas alone, as well as commentary on his character, is highlighted.. His vision of mission, of God’s Kingdom was so small but was he really a thief or did he just have another opinion about how money should be spent? Or was the problem with Mary; if she was really a woman of ‘ill repute’, Jesus might have forgiven her but it didn’t mean Judas had accepted her; or perhaps he just dismissed Mary as a woman of no consequence.
In the midst of a likely noisy, busy meal, was there a pause, a moment of silence? Did they all breathe in that heavy fragrance?
Did they all hear Judas, and then Jesus say “Leave her alone.”? Did she look into His eyes? Did she weep, knowing with inner wisdom that the way ahead was a way of sorrows? The scriptures do not say…but, if we had been there, would we have agreed with Judas or would our eyes have filled with tears and love, as we sat at the Master’s feet? And now, today, in the busi-ness of our lives, how did we show our love for our Lord and how did we witness to His life in us? And tomorrow…?