Catholic Faith Corner

Living in the Light
of Jesus Christ

Sea of Galilee at Sunrise

Catholic Faith Corner

Living in the Light
of Jesus Christ

Mary’s Sacrifice: When Nothing Is Too Much

This week a Gospel was about Mary of Bethany anointing the feet of Jesus. I love this outrageous gesture that expressed a wholehearted love. Mary, her sister Martha, and her brother Lazarus were Jesus’s best friends. He enjoyed their company and no doubt saw his visits to their home as a welcome respite.

                  We first meet Mary at her home, curled up at the feet of Jesus, drinking in his every word. She assumed the position of a disciple, and Jesus praises her for her rapt attention to him. (Her sister though who is too busy and worried about the meal does not win his approval.)

                  Next the unthinkable happens. Lazarus dies and is imprisoned in his tomb four long days before Jesus responds to his sisters’ plea for help. When Jesus arrives outside the village, Martha goes out to meet him, but Mary stays at home. I can’t help but think she is miffed at him for not coming right away and hurt. In fact, when he asks for her, and she finally leaves the house and goes to him, she rebukes Jesus. You know how this ends. Jesus astounds everyone by calling Lazarus back from the dead.

                  With this miracle, Mary’s love for Jesus is magnified. No wonder she sacrifices her precious, expensive ointment to honor him. It was worth a year’s wages. But she “wastes” it by pouring it over his feet so it ran onto the floor. Sure, she could have used the perfume to anoint her own body. Or as Judas pointed out, she could have sold it. But Mary preferred to perform an extravagant act of love. As of that weren’t enough, she used her long hair as a towel to wipe Jesus’s feet.

                  The perfume’s fragrance filled the house, delighting everyone there. Mary’s story has come down to us, prompting us to love Jesus as she did. Our love will have an impact on others whether we realize it or not.

                  This reminds me of St. Cardinal John Henry Newman’s prayer:

Dear Jesus, help me to spread your fragrance everywhere I go.
Flood my soul with your spirit and life.
Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly
that my life may only be a radiance of yours.

Shine through me, and be so in me
that every soul I come in contact with
may feel your presence in my soul.
Let them look up and see no longer me, but only Jesus!

Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as you shine,
so to shine as to be a light to others;
The light, O Jesus, will be all from you; none of it will be mine;
it will be you, shining on others through me.

Let me thus praise you the way you love best, by shining on those around me.
Let me preach you without preaching, not by words but by my example,
by the catching force of the sympathetic influence of what I do,
the evident fullness of the love my heart bears to you.

                  Six days after Mary’s bold, unabashed demonstration, Jesus performs his own astonishing act of love and washed and dried the apostles’ dusty feet—the customary job of a slave.

                  The very next day, Jesus pours out his precious blood in the greatest act of love ever. . . for us. Certainly Mary of Bethany was one of the weeping women who followed him to Calvary and stood faithfully near his cross.

This Holy Week

Now we are in the holiest week of the year. Hopefully we have demonstrated love for Jesus during Lent not by perfume, but by extra prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. During the Triduum, we will trace the steps of Jesus as he endures his passion and death and try to realize the depth of love he showed. The week will culminate not in a resuscitation like Lazarus experienced, but a resurrection with a new and glorious life. The love of Jesus for us is such that he took on flesh and blood like us and gave his life so that we could be with him forever.

                  This fact is so astounding that we will spend 50 whole days celebrating it during the Easter Season. And forever in heaven if we live right.

My “Perfume”

When I was applying to the Sisters of Notre Dame, the Mother Superior interviewed me. She asked, “Why do you want to be a Sister?” My answer then was because God had done so much for me, I wanted to give him the most I could…myself.  I know how Mary of Bethany felt.

                  Yes, when it comes to doing something for God, nothing is ever too much. . . . Also, nothing is ever enough!

                  No matter who you are and what you do, you can always offer your life to God as a sacrifice to show your love. You can do this every day by the Morning Offering Prayer and every time you participate in the Eucharist. Imagine yourself on the paten. Remember, God says, “You are precious in my eyes.” (Isaiah 43:4)

                  May you have a blessed Holy Week and a joyous Easter Season—all fifty days!

Here is a sweet new Easter hymn sung by children all in white:

• What is your favorite day of the Easter Triduum?

• What customs do you practice during these days?

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