Mary's Love

Here we are. Holy Week. 

Ponder these past weeks of Lent for a moment. How have they been for you? What have you discovered? Forgotten? Believed? Wondered?

The last 6 weeks have marked a unique chapter in my journey. This has certainly been one of the most intense seasons of my life. On a lot of levels. Personally and professionally. And all the areas in between.

I won't say much about all that. But I will say this: I have experienced Jesus to be more real and present in the last 40 days than I have in a long, long while. Thanks be to God.

The Gospel reading for today - the Monday of Holy Week - is John 12:1-11.
Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 3Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5“Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” 6(He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) 7Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” 9When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, 11since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.
During my years in the parish, I started a collection of children's Bibles. I like them. It's interesting to see which aspects of the stories are highlighted and which are left out.

Here are a few depictions of today's Gospel text...

I'm especially intrigued by the way the various artists depict Jesus' facial expressions. 

I'm drawn to his face in the second to the last picture. The one where Mary is standing at his feet. Rarely in children's Bibles do you actually see Mary's hair on Jesus' feet - the way it is described in the actual text. 

I wonder why. 

Is it just too audacious to draw? To outrageous to imagine for more than a moment or two? 

That was likely how everyone at dinner that night felt, too. "What on earth is she doing?" they whispered. 

Bishop Delzer preached on this text today for a Retired Clergy & Spouse Luncheon. He said that Mary was a true friend to Jesus. She understood even when no one else seemed to. And her support helped him step forward, into deep trial and tribulation. 

That second to last image from the "The Bible in Pictures" children's Bible reveals a perplexing scene. The other guests look on - confused. We don't get to even see Mary's face. 

And then there's Jesus. What's he thinking? That strong perfume filling his nose - and eventually the whole room. Mary's hair tickling his toes. It was all so extravagant. So much love being poured out for him - by his friend. 

Jesus poured out so much love on others - his whole life and ministry. And then, there was Mary - doing the same to him. 

Did he feel comforted? Overwhelmed? Defensive? Protective? 

What had he and Mary talked about prior to this moment? How much did she know? How much did she understand? He was surrounded by people all the time - but how often did he feel "known"?

Mary's hair scene in John 12 used to seem confusing and nearly comical to me. I didn't get it. It made me a little uncomfortable, too. Feet, hair, perfume, a crowd of people in the middle of dinner. 

I still don't understand this text, but I sure like it. 

I love that Mary doesn't care what people think. I love that LOVE is her top priority; love expressed in ways that are so profound and mysterious that they leave crowds confused. I love that Mary doesn't need to or feel inclined to explain herself. Why should she? It's not her mission in life to make sure everyone else likes her or understands her - it's her mission to love and serve. And I tell you what - she does a heck of a job.  

What if Mary's act of love and grace embodied the Church as a whole? What if people knew Christians - and experienced Christianity - as a faith rooted in extravagant, over-the-top love and acceptance? 

Mary, I wish I knew more about you. I wish I knew what you and Jesus talked about over the years of your friendship. I wish I knew what your facial expression was that night while you wiped his feet with your hair. I wish I got to see your face the morning you saw the risen Jesus in the garden. 

Thanks for refusing to conform, Mary - thanks for being bold and messy and abandoned with your love. Thanks for inspiring us all to soak in every moment we have with the people we love.  

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