Monday in Holy Week, April 6, 2020, John 12:1-11, “Fragrance of the Perfume”


“The house was filled with fragrance of the perfume.”

John 12:3b NRSV

Mary opened the jar of perfume in her home.  Sweet fragrance filled the air.  With the pleasant scent bringing a sense of calm, Mary kneeled in front of Jesus and anointed His feet.  A sense of wonder captured the hearts and minds of Mary, Lazarus and Jesus’ followers.

What could this anointing mean?  Every Jew knew that in Israel’s history anointing was reserved for their kings, for healing and for burials.  So what did Mary’s anointing of Jesus feet foretell?  Was Jesus the king to now rule an earthly kingdom?  Was He wounded and the anointing would aid healing?  Or would this anointing point to Jesus’ death?

Everyone in the house wondered and yet they saw Mary’s action as a sign of love except Judas.  He objected.  He wanted the perfume sold and the money given to the poor.  But St. Matthew lets us know that Judas may have had an ulterior motive because he kept the common purse and would steal from it for his selfish purposes.  Judas could not be trusted.  He was a thief.  He saw no gift of love in the anointing, but another way to serve his own self.

Mary sensed that Jesus had enemies who wanted to get rid of Him and to stop His teaching about the Kingdom of God and reveal Himself as the One who gives light and life to all who believe in Him.  So Mary kept some of the perfume for the day of Jesus’ burial.

On the one hand, burial brings sadness to all who know the loved ones now gone from this earth.  As we move toward the cross, we ponder Jesus’ death and burial which brings sadness, but on the other hand in the mystery of faith brings life and salvation.

Let our prayers rise today like the sweet incense that rose and filled the room from floor to ceiling from the costly perfume Mary bought for Jesus’ burial.

May our prayers for the poor, the ill from Covid 19 in all nations, the lonely and grieving, the medical community and for our President and all leaders of our government ascend to the One who suffered, died and was buried for our salvation.

Thanks be to God!


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Photo of “Mary Magdalene Anointing Christ’s Feet at the House of Simon the Pharisee,” Artus Wolffert, 1596, public domain, Wikipedia Commons




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