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Mary of Bethany Anoints Jesus

On this Monday of Holy Week, we hear the story of Mary of Bethany anointing Jesus (John 12:1-11). Martha has prepared a dinner for Jesus and his friends. The resuscitated Lazarus is with them. During dinner, Mary poured a liter of "genuine aromatic nard" onto Jesus' feet.

There are four meanings to Mary's symbolic act.

First, Mary is anointing Jesus as her bridegroom. In ancient Jewish weddings, the bridegroom was anointed with oil in preparation for his wedding.

Second, Mary anoints Jesus in anticipation of his death. She is likely aware of the threats to his life and knows that if he goes into Jerusalem for the Passover, he could be arrested. Because he is seen as a potential threat to Rome, his arrest could easily lead to his crucifixion.

Third, Mary anoints Jesus as the King of Israel. In the Old Testament, kings were anointed for their role to lead the people of Israel as God's representative. The pouring of the oil over the king symbolized the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into the person of the king, empowering him to follow God's way as he ruled the people.

Fourth, Mary's anointing of Jesus prepares him for his sacred act as the High Priest. As High Priest, Jesus sacrifices himself as the Lamb of God in order to restore the relationship between humanity and God.

Take time today to reflect on these four meanings of Mary's anointing of Jesus. Which one speaks to your heart this particular week?

Then consider your own Baptismal anointing. In Baptism, you were anointed with the Oil of Chrism. In a sense, then, you have been anointed as bridegroom or bride to allow God's love to flow through you to touch the hearts of others. You were anointed as king or queen to serve God and represent God in your relationships with others. You were anointed in preparation for sacrifice and service to God. And you have been anointed knowing that you will die, but in the hope that you will experience eternal life with Christ Jesus.

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