Holy Monday — Precious oil

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(Annie Vallotton drawings)

“Mary’s act of extravagant love does not stand in the way service to the poor. Far from it.
It is the fount from which springs a lifetime of giving for the love of Jesus.”  Fred Durham

Holy Monday. John’s gospel told the story of Mary bathing Jesus’ feet with costly and fragrant perfume. Oil, they called it. With each stroke of her hand and brush of her hair she quietly and purposefully offered the first anointing as Jesus moved closer to his death.

The story does not end with Mary’s gentle preparation. This act was noticed and berated. The sweet smell and intimate scene probably drew much attention. Judas Iscariot, already focused on his own betrayal, considered Mary’s offering as a waste. This fragrant oil could bring much money, he chided, money which could be given to those in need, the poor. Judas was indignant as so often seen in the guilty. The reading tells us he cared little about the poor but found more interest in what filled the common purse. A purse he kept and often gleaned from the top for his own purpose.

A familiar voice indeed. We hear much talk about how money is distributed to include support for those in need yet right beneath the surface a different intent appears to brew. Maybe humans are wired to be selfish, maybe the “survival of the fittest” is primary in our DNA. So the concern becomes what is rightfully mine, what is fair, or worse, what do the poor really deserve.

We may find ourselves in each person at one time or another – Mary’s extravagance, Judas’ judgment and Jesus pausing to receive. This story is rich for reflection. Take note, our call to care for one another is best heard when the buzz of what should be is silenced.

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