The Extravagant Love of Mary

John 12: 1-11

Isa 42:1-7 / Ps 27:1-3,13-14

You will always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.
(John 12:8)

True Love can bear life’s losses and pain,

It can endure all tears and sorrow;

For we have hope in a greater gain:

God’s promise of bliss in the morrow.

Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Lazarus’ house in Bethany, where a dinner was given in His honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with Him. Mary took out a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. “Leave her alone,” Jesus said. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.” Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of Him but also to see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in Him. (John 12: 1-11)


This poignant scene of the anointing of Jesus in Bethany is also found in all the other Gospel accounts (in Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, and in Luke 7:37-39, although with a different version). But in the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark and John, the reaction of Judas and the other disciples to the loving act of Mary are all the same: “Why this waste?” To their minds the highly expensive pint of pure nard poured on the feet of Jesus for no important occasion was a pointless extravagance. It reminds me of an incident many years ago when a dear friend I had not seen for a long time came to visit, and I brought out an expensive bottle of scotch whisky I had been keeping for a special occasion. When he said a few bottles of beer would have been enough, I told him the whisky was for a very special occasion– the visit of a very special friend. The value of a gift defines how much we care for its recipient.

Mary’s extravagant act of love for her Master is worthy of our emulation. That jar of perfume was probably her most precious possession, but its value meant nothing to her compared to her love and devotion to her Lord. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her” (Matthew 26:13).

How much of our time, effort and money do we sacrifice to prove our devotion and love for God and our Savior, Jesus Christ? Are we like Mary, who gave away her best and perhaps only prized possession because of her love for Jesus? Or are we like Judas and the other disciples, who were more concerned with the price of a material thing that could be “sold and the money given to the poor?” When we consider how much our Lord Jesus gave up and suffered for our sake, no amount of charity to the poor can ever compare to the sacrifice that we should be willing to give to God in gratitude for all the blessings that we have received from Him.

Help us, Father God, to prepare ourselves to commemorate the passion and death of Your Beloved Son, Jesus, to be willing to sacrifice everything in our life in genuine love for Him, even more than for “the poor who will always be with us.” Amen.

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