A reflection for Monday in Holy Week, April 2020
The Reverend Canon Catherine Ascah
St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church, Smiths Falls
“When she moved toward him, she dropped to her knees instead and poured the perfume on his feet, which could only mean one thing. The only man who got his feet anointed was a dead man, and Jesus knew it. "Leave her alone"; he said to those who would have prevented her. So Mary rubbed his feet with perfume so precious that its sale might have fed a poor family for a year, an act so lavish that it suggests another layer to her prophecy. There will be nothing prudent or economical about this man's death, just as there has been nothing prudent or economical about his life. In him, the extravagance of God’s love is made flesh. In him, the excessiveness of God’s mercy is made manifest.”
Brown Taylor, Barbara. “The Prophet Mary.” The Bread of Angels
Cowley Publications, Cambridge MA,1997, p.61.
The Gospel story of Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, anointing Jesus’ feet with costly ointment comes every year on Monday in Holy Week. Six days before the Passover, six days before his death, Jesus is sitting at the table in Bethany with his close friends. He knows what is coming. Evidently, Mary knows too.
Where are we this year? Six days before the celebration of Easter, on the Monday in Holy Week, 2020, where are we? We are in our homes, those of us who have one. Maybe home isn’t a safe place. Maybe it is the only safe place. Maybe we are alone, day after day, our only contact being with someone out a window, or through the phone or Facetime. Maybe we are in our home with our family, and the space is getting just a bit tight. We’re not where we usually are: at work, at church, at school. And those who are at work, God bless you because you are walking into danger rather than staying safe at home. Doctors and nurses and scientists and cleaners and grocery store clerks and truck drivers, this unlikely mix of people young and old who through their very selves are incarnating the sacrificial
extravagance of God’s love.
We aren’t where we usually are. So it is a perfect opportunity to take a seat in today’s Gospel story. There we are with Jesus and Mary, Martha and Lazarus. We are there with Jesus’ disciples, including Judas, who I would also venture has a pretty good idea what is coming. We are in the room where an abundant feast is spread out and there is the din of many voices talking over one another in good natured conversation or heated debate. The sharp scent of nard permeates the air, overcoming the heavy smell of cooking, washed and unwashed bodies, sun baked earth and wood smoke.
It is a lavish feast, no question. Jesus had just raised Lazarus from the dead, so this was a thank-you dinner par excellence. But its extravagance was nothing in comparison with the extravagance of God’s love made flesh in Jesus. What do you see, sitting there in your seat at the table? What are you thinking?
Tomorrow we will take one step closer to the upper room, Caiaphas’ house, Pilate’s court, and the cross at Golgotha. And tomorrow, we will take one step closer to the empty tomb, and the remarkable love of God shown in the risen Christ.