Fifth Sunday in Lent • March 13, 2016
The Extravagant Fragrance of Faith
A hug from my grown son is always a delight. A hug from my son just after he’s put on cologne can leave the scent of that hug clinging to me for hours.
In our Gospel lesson for today, Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with expensive perfumed oil of nard, an oil used for burial, and the house is “filled with the fragrance of that perfume.” A strong smell, one that all present associate with mourning, wafts over all those dining with Jesus, clinging to them too. The powerful odor reminds all of them of good-byes, sadness, and death—probably even the death of Lazarus, so recently resurrected by Jesus, and eating again with them.
“Extravagance,” Judas protests, “a scandalous waste!” But the scandal is about more than money. By anointing the feet of one who is living, Mary acts as servant and priest. By using oil of nard, she indicates she knows Jesus’ death is imminent. By wiping the excess oil with her hair, the overpowering scent clinging most strongly to her, she exposes her devoted wish to remain close to him. Judas protests all that is revealed in this powerful sign-act, this prophetic ritual of anointing Jesus at the dinner table.
As we journey together through Lent, can we be swayed by this scandalous text to greater devotion to Jesus too? Is any act too extravagant to indicate our growing love for this Jesus, who willingly gives himself up for us? What scent clings to us individually and as communities of faith?
Vicki Jens-Page, Western District pastor