The Anointing

Scripture Reading

Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany,
where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.
They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served,
while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him.
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.
Then Judas the Iscariot, one of his disciples,
and the one who would betray him, said,
“Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages
and given to the poor?”
He said this not because he cared about the poor
but because he was a thief and held the money bag
and used to steal the contributions.
So Jesus said, “Leave her alone.
Let her keep this for the day of my burial.
You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

The large crowd of the Jews found out that he was there and came,
not only because of him, but also to see Lazarus,
whom he had raised from the dead.
And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too,
because many of the Jews were turning away
and believing in Jesus because of him.
(John 12:1-11)

Scripture Study

12:1 Six days before the Passover: The chronology of the Fourth Gospel places this event on Saturday evening just before Holy Week. The following day is Palm Sunday (12:12).

12:3 pure nard: An imported spice from India. anointed the feet: Matthew and Mark have her also anoint the “head” of Jesus (Mt 26:7; Mk 14:3). the house was filled: The detail suggests John is testifying to what he himself smelled on the occasion. It may be symbolic of what Jesus says explicitly in the Synoptic tradition: the spread of the fragrance throughout the house anticipates the news of this event spreading throughout the world (Mt 26:13; Mk 14:9).

12:5 three hundred denarii: Nearly an entire year’s income for a laborer, since a single denarius was equivalent to a single day’s wage (Mt 20:2). It is tragic that Judas complained about Mary’s extravagance when he himself betrayed Jesus for much less—a mere “thirty pieces of silver” (Mt 26:15).

12:6 not that he cared: Judas wants to pocket the proceeds of the sale for himself, not to give it away as alms for the needy. the money box: Suggests that Judas was the treasurer in charge of the disciples’ funds (13:29; Lk 8:3).

12:8 The poor: Jesus is not indifferent toward the poor. Elsewhere he promotes almsgiving in no uncertain terms (Mt 6:2–4; Lk 6:30; 12:33). ● The words of Jesus echo the words of Deut 15:11, which states that the unceasing presence of the poor offers countless opportunities to give generously to less fortunate neighbors. The disciples, too, will have plenty of chances to give alms, but only a brief time remains to be generous toward Jesus while he remains among them (CCC 2449).

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in today’s Gospel, Mary of Bethany anoints Jesus for his death and burial. By this act, she anticipates the visit of three women to the tomb of Jesus. Early on the morning of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of James, and Salome bring spices to anoint the body of Jesus.

They look in and see a young man—and they are frightened out of their wits. Can you imagine? You walk into a tomb, fully expecting to see a dead body, and you see instead someone alive and well–someone different than the man who was buried there! But that is not the end of their surprise. The man announces that the Jesus whom they seek is not there, that he has been raised up and will go ahead of them into Galilee.

From this grave of Jesus we learn that everything we took to be the case is not the case. God is the enemy of death, and he has shown us his power over death in the most unambiguous way; our lives no longer need to be dominated by the fear of death, and we see the proof of this in the most vivid way imaginable.

Keep all of that in mind as we read this beautiful story of Mary of Bethany anointing the feet of Jesus.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.