Core Scripture and Icon


Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. -John 12:3

But when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for a large sum, and given to the poor.”

But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body she has done it to prepare me for burial.

“Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” -Matthew 26:8-13

Reflection by Janette Howe

Consider that moment in Bethany when Mary Magdalene, knowing she would lavish the perfume upon the feet of her Lord, disciplined herself to act precisely at the suitable moment—not prematurely, not belatedly. Without a sound, obedient to the nudge of Divine Providence, she brought herself to the feet of Jesus.

There she began to cover His feet with a gentle stream of oil.  Love guided her every unrushed movement, and save for the exquisite aroma, her act of love may not have been noticed.  It was the perfume that undoubtedly first attracted the attention of those in the room, including an apostolic critic.  Nonetheless, Mary not only continued with this act of love, but even more intimately so, with the use of her hair.

So too, I imagine are the weekly prayers we offer for our priests and bishops: largely unnoticed, but consistently offered.  And perhaps, like the act of Mary Magdalene, it will be the fragrance of our offering, the rising of our prayers, that will initially be perceived.

And while these prayers envelop and fill the heart of the priest, perhaps extending to the sanctuary and confessionals of the parish, affecting the congregation and even spilling over into the life of the diocese, our own low positions, at the feet of Jesus in prayer, may remain unnoticed.

Of this, let us be thankful, for “in quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).  Let us wholeheartedly entrust the winds of the Holy Spirit to carry our offerings where they must go, when they must go.  Let us remain content that we do our part—not prematurely, not belatedly, but at the assigned times. As St Francis de Sales reminds us, “Our mortifications, humiliations, prayers—in a word, all the exercises we practice—what are they but acts of virtue, which are like so many beautiful flowers that send up a perfume extremely sweet before the Divine Majesty?”