Lenten Reflections


Monday, March 21 – Geoffrey Philabaum

Gospel: JN 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. 


So Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial.”

In graduate school, part of my research involved religious experience and the body: how we think about, talk about, and experience faith through our corporeal existence.  The images here are beautifully embodied.  The finest oils attainable are placed not on the head, but on the feet: the lowly, dirty feet of a man known for walking through muck.  These oils are to soothe and cleanse the dry and battered, to anoint and empower the simultaneously revered and reviled. They are concentrated, and the scent fills the house. Mary’s hair, the cleanest and most highly prized part of her body, is saturated with the musk of the nard and the filth of the street. This scent will be gone in a few days, but what will linger is a memory, a gift no less profoundly generous.  

So Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial.”

Yes, this is a rare oil, but Mary will smell it again.  She will pass it in the streets.  She will catch a hint of it in the air on a day when life will seem to be too much, a day when Jesus’ body will be gone.  She won’t be able to touch it or sit at its feet.  She won’t be able to listen to its words, but it will be there for her.  Today, I challenge you to find your “it.”  What is your memory?  What inadvertently reminds you of Jesus’ grace, power, and humanity? Music is oftentimes my “it” - not just the sounds, but the humanity of the creation.  Seeing and hearing individuals pouring out something intensely personal and intimate for an audience is a gracious (and risky) sacrifice.  It lingers. It sustains, and it will come again when we least expect it.


Posted by stevensm on Monday March, 21, 2016 at 07:02AM

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