Yesterday we joined with the people of Jerusalem in hailing Jesus as king. Every Mass we sing or recite “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” during the Sanctus, but how often do we really mean it? How often do we really treat Jesus as our King, living as His subjects, as if we love Him? Today Mary teaches us something we often don’t consider when it comes to our relationship with Jesus: love moves us to lavishness.
Mary’s lavish expression of love—anointing Jesus’ feet with expensive oil and then drying His feet with her hair—foreshadows the even more lavish love Jesus is soon to show the world. This very word—lavish—comes from the Latin word laver which means “to wash”; our words laundry and lavatory come from the same. To be lavish is to pour out profusely, like water, rendering the object of your lavishness awash in your love. Mary pours costly oil on His feet; Jesus pours out His Precious Blood on the whole world. She knows, in her heart, what He is going to do, and she tries to express her love as lavishly as she can: Judas points this out when he mentions how expensive this oil truly is. In other words he says, “What a waste! It could have been put to better use!”
How often are we tempted, when we consider our own sinfulness or that of others, to think the same thing about Jesus, that He wasted Himself on us? Is there a kernel of disgust in our hearts when we look upon the Cross and consider that He died for us? For you, for me? Do we often pray for others and not for ourselves, comforting ourselves with the idea that we are noble for not “selfishly” praying for our needs when, in reality, we think we are beyond or beneath His concern?
In other words, how often do we resist allowing Jesus to lavish His love upon us, and do we allow ourselves to lavish our love on Him in return? For if we fall for the idea that Jesus only cares about the good and the holy, then we accuse Jesus of being stingy, that the tidal wave of love that drowned the world on Good Friday has somehow missed us, or we believe we have nothing to give in return for such lavishness.
Ah, but we do! For what did Jesus give us, and what does He call us to give in return? He gave Himself, as He does at every Mass in the Eucharist. He gives Himself, His whole poor, broken self. Mary gave the greatest gift she had in the world, but did so as a symbol of what she truly desired to give: her whole self. St. Mary of Bethany, teach us to love Jesus as lavishly as He has loved us!