Expanding on last year’s reflection:
Mary, on the other hand, understood that loving Jesus and loving the poor were not mutually exclusive, that only by drawing close to Him, serving Him, pouring herself out to Him, and allowing herself to be loved by Him could she learn how to love and serve others. She understood that Jesus truly had the power to bring the dead to life, and instead of allowing bewilderment or discomfort to hold her back from Him, she drew closer to the Source of all life and humbled herself at His feet. And in anointing Him with perfumed oil, she was unknowingly preparing Him for a burial that was soon to come, for His final sacrifice, the completion of His act of boundless love toward us. When Jesus told Judas to let Mary keep the oil for the day of His burial, only He knew that burial was just one week away. Only He realized how little time she had left to express her love toward Him, and how this act of love might sustain her through the grief that was to come.
Let us draw close to Jesus as we prepare to celebrate His Passion and death; let us not be afraid to come near to Him in His suffering. The profound sorrow of Good Friday can make us uncomfortable, and it might seem easier to just skip ahead to Easter, but we are called to enter into Christ’s Passion in order to share in His Resurrection. As we fast and pray, let us remember that Jesus did so much more for us, more than we can ever repay, and our sacrifices now are really a chance to have just a small taste of how much He sacrificed for us. His love is so strong, so powerful, that we might be intimidated by it: don’t back away, but dare to take a step closer.
We are not called to serve “the poor” in the abstract; we are called to pour ourselves out in love to those we encounter. We are called to lavish our care and attention upon others and be unafraid to draw close to them, even in their poverty and weakness, their prickly facades and unpleasant circumstances. We can’t keep those who are suffering at arm’s length; we are called to know them in a personal way. This is what Judas failed to see in Mary’s act of extravagant love: our love is not supposed to be practical or efficient or calculating, it is not a resource to be rationed. It is better to serve one person with our whole heart, making ourselves vulnerable to them and sharing their suffering, than to give superficial aid to many people simply to assuage our conscience.
We are called to leave our comfort zones in order to meet and serve Jesus. Mother Teresa said that to be a Christian means “seeing and adoring the presence of Jesus, especially in the lowly appearance of bread, and in the distressing disguise of the poor.” We might be afraid to draw close to His suffering, but there is a deeper beauty that can only be found when we move beyond a superficial love.
Image: CNS Photo / Anto Akkara