“Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” – Jn 12:3

In the Gospel reading today, we see a beloved friend of Jesus express her gratitude to him in an extravagant gesture of love and service. Unlike Mark and Matthew’s version of this story, she is named. She is not the “sinful woman” of Luke’s version either. This is Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, whom Jesus has just raised from the dead in the chapter before. Once again, John tells us that Martha was serving, and Mary was at Jesus’ feet. Rather than listening to Jesus or performing an act of repentance, though, Mary is loving and thanking him through an intimate act of service. She is expressing her great gratitude to Jesus for restoring her brother to life.

She may or may not realize that in choosing to raise her brother Lazarus, Jesus has given the Jewish authorities more reason to plot to kill him (John 11:53). But her anointing nevertheless foreshadows his coming death and burial. Jesus has chosen not only to reveal himself more fully in raising Lazarus out of love but has made a decision that will lead to his ultimate act of love and sacrifice. It is fitting, then, that Mary’s gesture is so lavish. She doesn’t mind the cost and fills the entire house with the fragrance of her love and gratitude.

I do not always connect Jesus’ love for me with his passion and death on the cross. I struggle with certain ways Christian tradition understands the connection between Jesus’ death and our salvation. But I at least have come to see that the cross is Jesus’ greatest expression of love for me – for us. He would not compromise who he is and what he is about to avoid the consequences. He risked and gave up everything so that we would know and love the triune God (and love each other in turn).

As we move through Holy Week, then, I am invited to return to those moments of grace in my life when Jesus has revealed himself to me in prayer, community, and service. I have the opportunity to draw closer to Jesus in remembering how he has loved me in my lifetime and in his passion and death. I pray that, like Mary and Martha, I too can make a return of love and service in gratitude for God’s love to me through Jesus. I hope that I can continue to be moved and learn to more fully pour out myself to God and others in a life of self-giving love, as I continue to grow in friendship with Jesus.

What may have been some significant moments in my life of God loving me through Jesus? How am I invited to walk with Jesus in his passion and death this week? How might I be invited to pour out myself in love and gratitude at this point in my life?

Marisa Moonilal