Our God makes all things new. In the first reading God promises it. In the gospel Mary anticipates it, anointing Jesus’ feet with costly perfume in preparation for the day of his burial. In the second reading Paul recalls his transformation from the persecutor Saul into an apostle. In baptism, God’s new person (you!) rises daily from the deadly mire of trespasses and sins.
Readings and Psalm
- Isaiah 43:16-21
The Lord gives water in the wilderness to the chosen people
- Psalm 126
Those who sowed with tears will reap with songs of joy. (Ps. 126:5)
- Philippians 3:4b-14
To know Christ and his resurrection, to share in his sufferings
- John 12:1-8
Mary anoints Jesus for his burial
Mary of Bethany recognizes Jesus’ mission: he has come to die. Perceiving the new thing God is doing, she embraces his death and pours out her devotion to Jesus in an extravagant act. The prophet beseeches the Israelites to forget the old pattern of salvation—the dry way through the Red Sea. Now God will make a new way, a wet way, in a dry, barren, and death-filled place.
On this Sunday in Lent, salvation lies not behind us but before us, through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Mary’s action in the face of death is bold. She anoints a corpse, and in so doing honors Jesus’ vulnerability and his life. She models love for the other disciples and for us.
By honestly facing the reality of death, we are more fully able to live honoring our own vulnerability and the humanity of others. We live with gratitude. We are more able to love one another and God extravagantly. However, in our culture, mortality is often avoided. The stench of death is removed through chemicals, and deceased bodies are cosmetically enhanced to appear as life-like as possible.
Each day, we the baptized boldly face death, trusting that God has made a new way, a wet way, to travel from death to life. God in Christ has honored human vulnerability by becoming flesh and by laying down his own life. He is the new way through a dry, barren, and death-filled place. Because Christ Jesus has made them his own, the baptized walk wet through the desert places of this life, pouring out the whole of their lives, down to the very last hair, in extravagant love for God and for the people God has formed.