Week 5 of Lent - Gospel Meditations and Prayers for Lent
Sunday March 17th, 2013
Sunday March 17th, 2013
"You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me."
At a festive dinner party at the home of his good friends in Bethany, Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with an excessive amount of costly perfume. As the fragrance of the perfume filled the home, she lovingly wiped Jesus’ feet with her hair. Judas asked the question that may have been on the minds of many at the party: “Why wasn’t the perfume sold and the money given to the poor?” Surely Jesus, the great lover of the poor, would not think it was a good idea to pour out the equivalent of a year’s wages on someone’s feet!
But the self-interested Judas was not really interested in the needs of the poor. And Jesus did not think that Mary’s act was wasteful. On the contrary, Jesus understood Mary’s act as a preparation for his burial. “You always have the poor with you” declared Jesus, “but you do not always have me.”
Some people have used Jesus’ words about the poor as an argument against social justice ministries. But Jesus spent his life ministering to the poor. So his words here cannot be taken to justify a lack of care for the poor. Rather Mary’s act reminds us that all our works of mission and social justice must be grounded in a theology that is based on recognition of the centrality of the life and saving death of Jesus. Earlier Mary’s sister Martha confessed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25-27). Here Mary expresses her love for her Lord as he faced his imminent death by pouring out a whole pound of nard on Jesus’ feet.
As we focus our thoughts on Jesus during this time of Lent, we are reminded that we need to respond to Jesus. When we come to know him as the Bethany sisters came to know him, as a friend and as the Resurrection and the Life, we can express our faith and our love for Jesus through acts of extravagant generosity and service. The gospel and acts of service belong together: we serve in Jesus’ name.
Lord, refresh us. Call us back to our first love so that we, like Mary and Martha, acknowledge you as Lord and Saviour, the Resurrection and the Life. Give us also Mary's spirit of extravagant generosity and service so that we can go forth into the world to strengthen the fainthearted, to support the weak, to help the afflicted, to give to the poor, as we love and serve the Lord. Amen.
Dr. Marion Taylor
Professor of Old Testament at Wycliffe College, Marion's interests have focused recently on women interpreters of the Bible. She has published a biographical dictionary of women interpreters of Scripture and is preparing anthologies of nineteenth-century women's writing on the women in the gospels and the women in Joshua and Judges.
If you wish to receive this weekly via email, simply reply to the email below with the subject line PUSH. A hard copy booklet can also be purchase for $3.00, please email Bonnie Kung at firstname.lastname@example.org to get your copy in the mail.