Monday 29 March 2021

The perfume of love


Six days before the Passover, Jesus went to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom he had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there; Martha waited on them and Lazarus was among those at table. Mary brought in a pound of very costly ointment, pure nard, and with it anointed the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair; the house was full of the scent of the ointment. Then Judas Iscariot – one of his disciples, the man who was to betray him – said, ‘Why wasn’t this ointment sold for three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor?’ He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he was in charge of the common fund and used to help himself to the contributions. So Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone; she had to keep this scent for the day of my burial. You have the poor with you always, you will not always have me.’

From JOHN 12:1-11


A the election of Pope Francis, the Archbishop Emeritus of San Paulo gave him a hug and a kiss and said, “Don’t forget the poor.’  Later, in an audience given to representatives of the media Pope Francis said, ‘How I would like a church which is poor and for the poor!’

In the gospel reading, Judas Iscariot seems to have a point, and with his eyes set firmly on the bank balance, expresses the waste that Jesus has allowed to happen in his presence and, seemingly, for his own benefit – as expensive ointment is poured over the feet of Jesus.  However, what Mary does is a touching, profound, beautiful, fragile and disturbing thing.  She is anointing him, so Jesus says, for his burial.  Death is in the air. ‘You will have the poor with you always, you will not always have me.’ There is no escaping it.  It is not long now before his hour will come.

In the prophecy of Isaiah we are given the image of the suffering servant, one who makes no song and dance, he does not cry out, he does not complain.  He walks gently, humbly, submitting to all that will come to him, to the blows and insults.  Our own sins weigh heavy on us.  Consider how heavy it is to bear the sins of the whole world.  Jesus is, in every way, poor and humble.  In his first Palm Sunday homily as Pope, Francis said, ‘Jesus has awakened great hopes, especially in the hearts of the simple, the humble, the poor, the forgotten, those who do not matter in the eyes of the world.’  May this Holy Week teach us humility and poverty.  May it deepen our love for Jesus and give us a greater love of the poor. Let our hopes be reawakened, our eyes opened, our hearts softened, our faith reignited, our lives be filled with the scent of Jesus death, which is the perfume of love.


Loving Father, reawaken our hope, open our eyes to the needs of the poor, and deepen our love for Jesus, who is Lord for ever and ever. Amen. Amen.

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