A Fragrant Sacrifice

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Monday of Holy Week

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 Jesus, 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.

Opening Prayer: St. Mary Magdalene, you poured out your costly oil for Jesus. Pray for me that I may hold nothing back from Our Lord.

Encountering Christ:

  1. Mary Who?: Just who is St. Mary Magdalene? Is she Martha and Lazarus’s sister from our readings today? Is she the sinful but repentant woman whom Jesus forgives (Luke 7:36-50)? Is she a wealthy woman from Magdala whom Jesus freed from seven demons and who then followed him even to his Cross (Luke 8:2, Jn 19:25)? Western Church tradition holds that St. Mary Magdalene is actually the woman portrayed in each of these scriptural accounts. We learn from these stories how the Magdalene’s conversion, repentance, and healing lead to her generous, love-filled discipleship. An example of the generosity of her spirit is shown in our reading today when she used the costly nard to anoint Jesus.
  2. A Fragrant Sacrifice: St. Mary Magdalene generously poured out the fragrant, expensive oil to anoint Christ’s feet. Nothing we do for the love of Christ, no time we spend, no act of charity is ever wasted. Everything belongs to him, so whatever we return to him as a holy sacrifice is just. On the Cross, Jesus became a fragrant sacrifice for us: “[Christ] handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma” (Ephesians 5:2). Our own sacrifices also become a delightful fragrance that is pleasing to God (Philippians 4:18). During this Holy Week, what can we offer God as a pleasing sacrifice? Like the aroma of the perfumed oil filling the room, how can our loving actions fill our homes with the fragrance of our offerings? As St. John Henry Newman and St. Teresa of Calcutta prayed, “Dear Jesus, help me to spread your fragrance everywhere that I go.”
  3. Let Her Keep This: In this scene at Bethany, Jesus knew that his hour was approaching. He also knew that St. Mary Magdalene would be there with him at the foot of the Cross. Why else would he say, “Let her keep this for the day of my burial” (John 12:7)? He knew that only a precious few would stay with him during his Passion, and that she would be one of them. St. Mary Magdalene was there with the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. John as Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried. She was the first witness to the Resurrection as well. Let us pray for the courage and “the endurance of Christ” (2 Thessalonians 3:5) that we will need to follow Jesus to Calvary this week.

Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, help me realize that every act of love that I offer you out of the purity of my heart is a fragrant offering. Help me find ways to lavish my love on you and on my neighbor.

Resolution: Lord, today by your grace, I will offer a generous act of charity out of my love for you.

For Further Reflection: Pray the Fragrance Prayer, or read this article by Jennifer Ristine, CRC: Mary Magdalene, Icon of Hope.

written by Carey Boyzuck

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