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A Very Special Anointing
Monday of Holy Week
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.
Opening Prayer: Lord, help me to pray. I want to listen to all you have to tell me this week as you prepare for and undergo your Passion.
- The Anointing of the Dead: This happened just before Palm Sunday—six days before the Passover. As Mary approached, Jesus was thinking of his coming death. He saw the anointing as a preparation for his burial, which he knew well was only a few days away. He was fully oriented toward what was coming. He was ready to die in order to save us.
- The Anointing of a Very Special Guest: This aromatic nard was very expensive oil. Judas estimated it was worth three-hundred days’ wages—essentially a year’s wages. Wow! In Jesus’s time, guests who arrived at someone’s home would customarily have their feet washed and anointed to clean off the dust of the road. As we learn from the Last Supper, this was normally done by a slave, yet Mary did it herself, humbling herself before Jesus and even wiping his feet with her hair. Her actions could be interpreted as an act of gratitude for the raising of her brother Lazarus, but perhaps she was also recognizing Jesus’s divinity. Martha, Mary, and Lazarus were friends of Jesus. They knew him well. They had seen enough to be convinced and to believe that he was the Son of God.
- The Anointing of a King: Kings are also anointed. Jesus was about to head into Jerusalem, perhaps the very next day, and he would be acclaimed king by the pilgrims entering Jerusalem. The signs of his kingship, of his Messianic identity, would be apparent—riding a donkey (the royal animal), entering the city from the east, from the Mount of Olives, arriving in time for the Passover when kings traditionally began their reigns in Jerusalem. The Scriptures reported no other moment in which he was anointed after this, so this would appear to be his royal anointing, unless we consider that during his Passion, he was anointed with an even more precious ointment—his own blood.
Conversing with Christ: Lord, this anointing prepared you for your death, your enthronement as a king of a kingdom not of this world. You were fully prepared to walk the way of the Passion to its end. Help me to accompany you in these moments so important for my salvation.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will spend a little extra time thinking and praying about what happened to you this week, in order to walk the Way of the Cross with you in the coming days.
For Further Reflection: Stations of the Cross at the Coliseum, Good Friday 2000 by St. John Paul II:
Father James Swanson is from Miles City, Montana, joined the Legionaries of Christ in 1983, and currently works in Atlanta, Georgia. He enjoys books, craft beers, and extreme birding.