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Imagining the Lectionary: A perfumed epiphany of grace (Lent 5C)
Reflection accompanying image “Jesus is anointed with perfume

Mary 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. (John 12:3)  With the weight of the world upon his shoulders Jesus carries the full burden of salvation towards its inexorable conclusion in Jerusalem. Of all those around him as loyal followers and those against him as bitter opponents it is a solitary woman who fully understands what this journey of love is costing him. Using the same extravagant embodied language of grace that is the hallmark of his ministry, through her tender gestures she conveys wordlessly the mystical essence of divinity. As Mary prepares to anoint Jesus' feet all those gathered around them are about to witness a perfumed epiphany of grace. In this one act the bright light of tender, loving care suffuses the commonplace of everyday life with the sheer beauty of divine intimacy, in all its compassionate and kindly glory.  The essentials of this same basic story are reworked in the four gospels, which begs the question: why was this simple incident so important to them? What is it about the anointing of Jesus that so grips their imaginations?


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