READ: JOHN 12:1-11
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.
In our reading today, we witness Mary's great act of love, her declaration that Jesus is the Messiah and is worth everything to her. Jesus comes to her house for dinner, and while Jesus talks with Lazarus and Martha serves, Mary sits at Jesus' feet. And then she does something radical. She takes a jar of costly oil and pours it over Jesus' feet and then dries them with her hair. And did you catch what Judas' response was to this? He rebukes Mary because this act of love cost so much, three hundred days' wages, in fact. Pope Benedict XVI describes this moment like this, "This event symptomatically shocked Judas Iscariot: the logic of love clashed with the logic of profit."
Mary teaches us an important lesson today: that it costs to love Jesus. When we follow Him and really seek to make Him the highest priority in our lives, we need to realize that this choice will cost us. It costs us sleep and comfort to get up early and make the decision to pray. It may cost our reputation or friendships if we weed out sins and situations that lead to sin. It costs our pride to come to Jesus and acknowledge the ways that we have wandered. And most often, it costs the possession that is most valuable to us--our time, our schedule. If we continue to make the decision to put Jesus first, it will cost us that time. It will force us to re-work our schedule to make time for prayer, to invest more in the life of the parish, to do things that will spiritually benefit us. It may cost us the ability to do everything that is currently on our schedule, those things that, until now, may have seemed more important than investing in our relationship with Jesus.
When a young couple falls in love, you often are able to see a shift in their lives. They spend less time with family and friends and spend more time with each other, going on dates and learning about each other. Their conversations with other people are focused on sharing about the love and joy they experience in the other person. They make room in their schedule, their budget, their hearts for their beloved. The experience of love makes the sacrifice, the cost, worth it.
And so it is with us. When we know how extravagantly, how mercifully, how sacrificially we've been loved by Christ, the cost of following Him begins to seem negligible to us. To love Jesus and to sacrifice for Him begins to seem more like a reward than a cost. For it is then that we realize that there is nothing in our lives--no commitment, no career, no salary, no friendship, no marriage, no child, no sport, no TV show that can offer us what Jesus offers us, what Jesus promises us if we say yes to following Him more closely.
In this Holy Week, let us seek Jesus in a costly way. Let us re-work our schedules this week, especially, so as to drawn closer to Him. And what will we come to find? We will realize that what it costs us, what we sacrifice, is only a response to what has been sacrificed on our behalf--Jesus' own life. St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 6:20 that we should remember that we "have been purchased at a price" by Jesus' blood shed for us on the cross. You were worth everything to Him. There was nothing He wouldn't give to win your heart and show His love to you. Let your response this week come from that acknowledgement.
What struck you most in this passage?
What is the most valuable thing in your life, in your schedule?
How would making Jesus a bigger priority in your life cost you?
How do you struggle seeing the "reward" of this cost, of your sacrifices?
Mary teaches us that Jesus deserves our finest, not our leftovers. Have you poured out your best in every other area of your life that you have nothing to offer Jesus?
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life's refuge;
of whom should I be afraid?
When evildoers come at me
to devour my flesh,
My foes and my enemies
themselves stumble and fall.
Though an army encamp against me,
my heart will not fear;
Though war be waged upon me,
even then will I trust.
I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD with courage;
be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
What "costly" thing can you do to draw near to Jesus today?