There are a lot of dinner scenes in the Gospels. A lot of feeding folks either in a large venue like the 5,000, or going to a party like the Wedding at Cana, or just sitting down for supper . That is definitely one thing that Southerners haven’t missed when trying to live the Christian life, and we at St. Cyprian’s are no exception to that one.
This particular dinner is a little bit of a strange one. Jesus has come to Bethany, six days before the Passover. The Passover is when the Last Supper happened, so this isn’t too long before Jesus is crucified, and it is nine days before the Resurrection. A lot is going to happen in the next couple of weeks, but for now, everyone is just having supper.
This is an odd dinner for another reason — the company. We have Jesus, yes, and the host Martha was serving. Also there were Judas, who is not stranger to us, and Mary, Martha’s sister, who sits and learns as a disciple at Jesus’ feet in another scene of the Gospel. And the really stand out part of all of this is Lazarus. Lazarus for whom Mary and Martha and Jesus wept. Lazarus who had been dead and wrapped in cloth and laid in his grave. Lazarus, who was brought back from the land of the dead by none other than Jesus himself, back from the shadows of the netherworld and into the bosom of his family. One who was dead and is alive again was sitting at the table, eating like a normal person. Can you believe it? truly the people in that place knew the loving power of God.
But not everyone there was entirely with Jesus, even though he’d resurrected Lazarus. You see, during this time Mary opens up a bottle of very expensive perfume, called nard, and it was work a fortune. She opens up the alabaster bottle and the fragrance fills the house and she washes Jesus’ feet with it, both the perfume and her own hair. Jesus had done so much for them. He had come into their lives and cried with them as they grieved the loss of their loved one, he reunited them with a loved one lost to death, he had made their family whole again, and if you are Lazarus you are particularly thankful because Jesus brought you back from the dead. They are honoring Jesus with a party. They are honoring and celebrating the work of God in their lives with a feast and with a particularly expensive and rare treat. Jesus walked nearly everywhere he went. His feet were most likely dirty, and calloused, and tired. And Mary takes this oil, this rare perfume, and anoints his feet with it. In appreciation of Jesus and all he has done.
And then Judas chimes in. He complains about Mary wasting perfume on Jesus’ feet. Judas explains that the perfume is worth 300 denarii. Now 300 denarii was what the average person earned in a year of work. That’s like having a bottle of 30,000 dollar perfume. Judas insists that it should have been sold to help the poor. Well, this is one of those times in Scripture where I get a little nervous because I can see Judas saying something I might myself say. I might be more concerned about it if Judas was sincere here, but the Gospel tells us that he was the treasurer of Jesus’ ministry and that he’d been stealing money from it. Judas wants the 30K put in the community purse so he can take it, not to help the poor. Jesus then chastises him, telling her to leave Mary alone. She purchased the perfume for Jesus’ burial. Jesus then makes it clear that she was right to do so. “The poor will always be with you, but I will not be,” he says.
Now, this is odd talk from a man who says that he will be with his disciples even until the end of the age. But what Jesus is saying here is that he will not always be with them in the earthly form. He will be gone soon, for three days in fact, he will be just as dead as Lazarus was. The Resurrection means something different, it means a new power, a greater power, an eternal power is unleased into its full potential and potency, especially for those who believe, but for now in the Gospel, Jesus has to die just like anyone. And he has to go away, just like anyone.
If this story teaches us anything, it teaches us at least three things.
The first is that sometimes people will appeal to your better angels to get you to do the work of devils. Judas made a good point. If they sold that perfume they would have had lots of money to help the poor. But he didn’t want to help the poor. He didn’t want to help anyone but himself. And there will be people in your life who want you to throw in for something that isn’t really going to help anyone except for themselves, and if they are smart about it they’ll appeal to your sense of love, compassion, and charity. So, the example we get from Jesus here is to be wise — make smart decisions. Don’t be paranoid. Don’t assume the worst about people as your first reaction, just pay attention, and stay focused on God. Because when you lose that focus, you will swiftly find that you’ve become Judas.
The second thing this teaches us is that people express their love of God in all kinds of ways and when they do that we have to let them. What if it wasn’t Judas who objected, what if it was Peter, who though his mouth gets ahead of his brain a lot, has his heart in the right place most of the time bless his heart. What if Peter had been there and said that about giving the money to the poor? I imagine that Jesus’ response would have been similar. Leave her alone. She is giving something to Jesus, who saved her brother’s life, Jesus who has been teaching her the way of God and Truth and Salvation, she is giving up a costly earthly thing in order to anoint a heavenly thing. That is part of why we fast in Lent –we give up earthly things to anoint heavenly things. And she was being humble, anointing his feet and cleaning them with her own hair. She was showing that whole room how to be in a good relationship with Jesus and with God, and again someone wanted to fuss over the details, wanted to criticize rather than compliment her piety. The lesson here is clear, don’t be that person. Don’t spend your life nit-picking and getting in other people’s business, breaking people down just because they don’t do things the way you might have. Remember the Prodigal Son parable? The elder brother might have said something like this.
Then, we get our third lesson here — that Mary’s devotion clues her into something. She purchased this perfume for Jesus’ burial, and is using some of it now. She wasn’t just going to anoint a living person with this, she spent a years worth of wages on a dead man! Because Jesus changed her life. He wiped away her tears and gave her strength. He taught her his wisdom as she was willing to learn at his feet, something women didn’t do a lot back then. She put herself out there for him in doing that and in anointing his feet. And because of her dedication, she was connected to Jesus. She knew something that others either didn’t know or had been denying — that Jesus was going to die, and soon. Remember when Jesus talks about his death with the disciples in other parts of the Bible? All they do is deny it, tell him surely it can’t be so, and then they come around with their words but eventually scatter as their teacher, savior, and friend is nailed to the cross by the Romans. What did Mary do? She spent a lot of her money on something for the man who was going to die. She treated him with the same compassion and love that he gave her brother and her family when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. She put soothing balm on his tired feet and she planned to do it again on his dead body, to honor him, to respect him, to continue to be in relationship with him even after he was gone. She stayed focused on God and because of that she saw something others wouldn’t see, she was able to handle a truth others couldn’t handle.
So the next time you want to do something for God, do something for Jesus, go for it. Be brave. Be daring. Go for it. Be respectful of others, of course, but don’t let the Judases of the world hold you back. If you have a gift for Christ, give it. it can be time, it can be money, it can be a talent of some kind that can help the church, but go for it. and if you aren’t sure, if you are more like one of the other people, like maybe Martha, and you can’t think of anything, maybe now isn’t the time for you to do it. Maybe now is the time to sit with God, work on your relationship, read Scripture, take time to pray and contemplate, do a devotional or say a rosary, get really into some good Gospel music. Start building that relationship with God, and you’ll start getting into the flow.
And let me tell you, there are a lot of things in this world that will try to distract you or put you down. not everyone is a Judas, but I think most people have “Judas moments.” Sometimes people will try to talk you out of something, and that could be God telling you to take a step back and reconsider, but is someone is just being close-minded, or hateful, or spiteful, or selfish, or fear-based and paranoid, or self-righteous, or corrupt, or just plain old mean — wash Christ’s feet anyway.
When the world tells you that you aren’t the kind of person who belongs in church or in decent company, was his feet anyway.
When someone tries to keep you from your prayers or from trying to claim your blessing from God, wash his feet anyway.
When times in life are bad, when you are suffering and bad things happen and the only prayer you’ve God is “why, God, why?”, wash his feet anyway.
If someone tells you that you are too young or too old or too sick or too busy or too black or too white or that you pray in the wrong language or that you aren’t worth the time because you are a throw away person, wash our Lord’s feet anyway, take out your perfume and your hair and let your prayers and devotion fill the room with the sweet scent of godly love! Don’t let anyone be they angels or devils, or powers or principalities, or preachers or politicians, or family or neighbors ever, ever, ever keep you from loving God and from giving of yourself to the glory of Christ! Ever! And if you stay strong in that way, even when you get called out, even when the one we follow is nailed to a cross, even when he is laid in a tomb, you’ll be one of those who go and are the first to see the resurrection! You’ll be preaching to the preacher then! You’ll be healing the doctor then! You’ll be teaching the teacher then! You’ll be the one in glory and in the bosom of God! And nothing on earth is worth that. Especially when it coming from some old Judas.
Even so, don’t forget to pray for the Judases of the world, and don’t forget that your own personal Judas will pop up now and again, even when you don’t realize it. Being devoted to God like Mary in this story means loving those who curse you, means being forgiving in a world that says otherwise. Keep your eyes focused on Jesus and let love handle it, because love is the only thing in this world that can overcome wickedness, even when it pops up in your own soul. Amen.
En el Evangelio de San Juan oyemos la historia de cuando Maria, la Hermana de Marta no la madre de Jesus, lavo los pies de Jesus.
Judas la critico porque el perfume que ella uso era muy caro. Pero, cuando Jesu lo oido la critica, el respondio a Judas diciendo que Maria hizo lo que era correcto. Es bueno para la gente de dios a dar honor a dios con regalos y con dedicacion y humilidad. Maria tenia amor por Jesus y por Dios, y tambien por la mensaje de Jesus. Antes de este parte en el evangelio, Maria aprendio a los pies de Jesus como un discipulo, antes de este parte en el evangelio Jesus resucito el hermano de Maria, Lazarus, de la muerte. Maria comprendio el poder y la verdad de Jesucristo y tambien del evangelio y ella queria ser una parte de la familia de Dios.
Es importante que recordamos el ejemplo de Maria en esta situacion. Aveces olvidamos oraciones o devociones. Aveces olvidamos que dememos que hacer lo que es justo con nuestras vidas o habilidades o recursos. Cuando esto ocurre, recordemos Maria y su dedicacion o Jesucristo y cosas divinas. Aveces necesitemos preguntar a ella por sus oraciones para asistarnos.
Puede ser dificil, entiendo. Esto es porque Dios nos da ejemplos como Maria. Estes ejemplos pueden ayudarnos cuando necesitamos mejorar nuestra dedicacion a dios. Yo oro para todos de ustedes, que pueden vivir como Maria. Espero que todos ustedes oren esto para mi tambien. Amen.