Mary of Bethany

 

Mary of Bethanywashing of the feet art by gisele bauche
Art by Gisele Bauche

 

Mary brought in a pound of every costly ointment.
~ John 12:3

 

Here we are shown a woman who was truly a disciple, one with a listening ear. She was a woman for whom Jesus really mattered, more than anything else in the world, more than herself.

She saw life’s sole task as listening to the Lord, hearing the word of God’s, which always includes putting it into practice. We do not ‘hear’ in the biblical sense unless the hearing is translated into action. Like Martha, Mary too must have had many things to do but still only one sole purpose — to listen to the Lord.

The result was a deep knowledge of Jesus, of the hidden springs of his being, so to speak. As Jesus could say ‘Holy Father the world has not known you, but I have known you’ — because he lived on the Father’s will, so this woman could say, ‘Holy Jesus, the world has not known you, but I have known you.’

Thus she, of all others it seems, divined that he was to die and that this dying was his Father’s will. She did not raise an outcry, or plan a campaign to stop him going to Jerusalem. She had entered into his deepest inner movements, no matter how dimly. She came with her symbolic gesture of pure devotion, identification, anointing him for his burial.

There is nothing else a disciple can do — no heroics, no glib professions that we are ready to die with him, but rather deep humility, deep gratitude for what he is doing. He has to do it in order to destroy our sin, our alienation from the Father. Then we shall be able to follow him.

Mary of Bethany is the symbol of Christian discipleship. If we do not come to this deep knowledge what does it mean? Yes, there is a Mary in us all, a devoted woman, but each of us has also to recognize a potential Judas, the worldling whose values are completely opposite to those of Jesus. Judas scorns the folly of the cross, the way of lowliness, humiliation, unimportance. He scorns the gesture of dumb, simple devotion. He is opposed to the mind of Christ who humbled himself, became nothing . . .

Judas too is capable of conversion. Ask our Lord with great earnestness to convert him wholly. Then there will be nothing in any of us but pure devotion — and the house will be filled with sweetness, refreshing the world.

 

~ A Meditation by Ruth Burrows, O.C.D.

 

The Fragrant Sacrifice of Love

 

Mary of Bethany the unction of Christ art by julia stankova
The Unction of Christ, art by Julia Stankova

In the Gospel of John we read how Mary of Bethany takes a whole bottle of expensive pure nard and pours it out over the feet of Jesus (Jn 12:1-8). This bottle contains a fortune, the costliest and very best that Mary has. When she has poured it out over Jesus’ feet, she dries them with her hair. What a waste! She uses no towel to dry his feet; she uses her hair, herself.

Since that time, there have always been people who feel drawn, yes forced to do as Mary. People, who in their innermost being know that they must give everything, not just what they have, but what they are. They must give their whole self. They must give it all at once. They don’t even ask what purpose it serves. But the whole Church, the whole world, is filled with the fragrance of their devotion.

There is no other incident in the gospel which so clearly expresses the uniqueness of the contemplative life. Those who enter such a life, whether in a monastery or in society, ask no questions about their talents and whether these will bear fruit, nor do they ask whether the contemplative life will develop their personality. All they think about is to give all their love to the Lord, spreading a fragrance everywhere.

~ A Meditation by Wilfrid Stinissen, O.C.D.


Radiating Christ

by Blessed John Henry Newman

Dear Jesus, help us to spread Your fragrance everywhere we go.
Flood our souls with Your Spirit and Life.
Penetrate and possess our whole being so utterly,
that our lives may only be a radiance of Yours.
Shine through us, and be so in us, that every soul we come in contact with
may feel Your presence in our soul.
Let them look up and see no longer us but only Jesus!
Stay with us and then we 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 ours;
it will be You shining on others through us.
Let us thus praise You in the way You love best, by shining on those around us.
Let us preach You by our words and by our example,
by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what we do,
the evident fullness of the love our hearts bear to You.
Amen.