Day Thirty-Five: Devotion

Monday of Holy Week

The Gospel for this Monday of Holy Week takes us to the day before Palm Sunday when Jesus was in Bethany, just a short distance from Jerusalem, at the home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. Jesus had already raised Lazarus from the dead, and many came to their home to see both Jesus and Lazarus. At the same time, the chief priests in Jerusalem were formulating their plot to kill Jesus.

During the dinner, Mary performed a profound act of devotion to Jesus. She “took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair” (John 12:3). This particular perfume, called “spikenard,” comes from a plant that grows in the Himalayas of Nepal, China, and India at altitudes of about 3,000 to 5,000 meters. Oil is then extracted from the crushed and distilled roots to make perfume, medicine, incense, sedatives, and flavoring. It would come to Palestine via an ancient trade route and was very costly. Judas objected to Mary’s action saying, “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?” (John 12:5). Jesus rebuked Judas and said, “Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me” (John 12:7-8).

The combination of Mary’s act of devotion, Judas’ greedy response, and Jesus’ rebuke, all taking place just before the first Holy Week, gives us insight into how we should honor our Lord. Jesus clearly elevates devotion to Him above service to the poor. Of course His love for the poor is absolute, but He loved the poor, the rich, and the middle class in the same way. Jesus’ words tell us that divine worship and profound devotion are of far greater importance than anything else, even the good deed of giving money to the poor. We must do both, but divine worship and devotion come first.

One reason Jesus might have permitted Mary to use enough of this valuable perfume on Him, so much that “the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil,” was because Mary needed to do so. Jesus did not need the honor, but He did long to receive Mary’s devotion by which grace more fully transformed her heart. We honor Jesus because He deserved such reverence, but our honor doesn’t change Him, it changes us. It might have been that Mary was too attached to material things and was renouncing this attachment by lavishing the expensive perfume upon Jesus. This clearly pleased our Lord, Who wanted Mary freer to receive His divine love.

Ponder this generous act that Mary performed for our Lord and consider what you can offer to Jesus out of devotion. Are there attachments in your life that you can lavish upon Him? Is there some sacrifice that you can make this week to express your love for Jesus in imitation of Mary’s loving offering? Strive to identify the “liter of costly perfumed oil” in your life, and do not hesitate to offer that to Jesus with devotion and love.

My worthy Lord, I have many attachments in my life. Please help me to see those things that You desire me to let go of so that I can offer them to You out of sacrificial love. You are worthy of my love and devotion. May I be as generous with You as You have been with me, giving the fullness of my love to You. Jesus, I trust in You.

See also: Day Thirty-Five: 40 Days at the Foot of the Cross

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