“The house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” – Jn. 12:3

Astronauts on the Space Shuttle can take 1.5 pounds worth of personal objects that fit in a 5′′×8′′ bag. This small collection of photos, trinkets, and letters from loved ones provides a tangible connection with the people they have left behind on earth.

When my grandmother died, we brought home an antique sewing machine built into a wooden cabinet with drawers. The drawers were filled with the unique aroma of wood, dust, and old paper that characterized my grandparents’ house. Whenever anyone tried to open them, my sister and I screamed, “Shut the drawer! Don’t let their scent out!”  When we lose someone (to death or distance), we hold tightly to the things that renew the sense of connection and the promise of hope.

Today’s Gospel has two tactile reminders of the promise of the Resurrection: the oils of anointing and the living, walking, breathing Lazarus who had previously been dead as a doornail. In Mary’s extravagant gesture of love in anointing Jesus, she unknowingly prepares him for burial. As she pours out the oil, the whole house (and likely her hands and body) is filled with the aroma.

As the week progresses and the conspiracy against Jesus mounts, I imagine Mary bringing her hands to her nose and smelling the remaining drops of oil. I imagine her walking into the room where the encounter took place and breathing deeply, hoping for a lingering scent of the perfume she had “wasted.” I imagine that all the tastes, smells, and memories of her gesture that night were seared into her senses. 

Likewise, for many of the people who had heard of Jesus or his teachings, the miracle of Lazarus (who they could see with their own eyes) gave them confidence to believe. They now had a personal encounter with the Resurrection that prepared them to go forth as disciples. Bystanders were given a glimpse at the possibility of eternal life with Christ. The plot to kill Lazarus is an attack on people’s hope in the promise of the Resurrection.

Like the oil filling Mary’s house, how can I taste, smell, and feel the presence of Christ today?

Am I trying to “kill” any of the signs of God’s promise to me? Perhaps out of pain, fear, or doubt?

Jen Coito

Photo Credit: Unsplash