Anything Less Than Everything
Homily for Monday of Holy Week
Preached on March 29, 2010 at Holy Spirit Parish/The Newman Center at the University of Kentucky, Lexington KY
Readings: Isaiah 42:1-7; Psalm 27:1, 2, 3, 13-14; John 12:1-11
Judas thought it was a little too much. After all, it wasn’t just any cheap odorless oil; Mary used costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard (Jn. 12:3). She didn’t just trickle a couple of drops; she poured a whole liter (Jn. 12:3). She didn’t just anoint the feet of Jesus; she dried them with her hair (Jn. 12:3). With the house filled with the fragrance of the oil (Jn. 12:3), it was difficult to ignore the lavishness of Mary’s deed. “Why be so lavish with the Master?” Judas seemed to say. “Why waste what would have been a year’s salary when it could have been given to help the poor?” (cf. Jn. 12:5)
But Judas missed the point. Mary’s lavish anointing of Jesus’ feet was not just a public display of affection for a beloved house guest. It was not merely a show of her intense admiration for a popular prophet. It was an expression of her limitless gratitude to the One who had raised her brother Lazarus from the dead (cf. Jn. 11:1-45). For what Jesus had done for her and her family, the costly perfumed oil still seemed scarcely enough. When the Lord had lavished them with so much, nothing they could give back was too much. Even Mary’s sister Martha did what she did best: she cooked up a storm. Nobody called her dinner excessive, not even the well-fed Judas.
As we enter into this Holy Week, we are called to remember the Lord’s passion, death, and resurrection in the liturgies of the Triduum and in the devotions of the Church. Yet, there are those who would say that going to more than just an hour on Sunday would be a little too much Church in a week. “Why be so lavish with the Master?” they seem to say. “Why waste your time when it could have been given to help the poor?” But they are missing the point. When we reconsider the lavishness of what the Lord has done for us, we too realize that nothing we could offer back is too much. For the Lord who has given us life, who has showed us the depths of His love, who has taken our cross as His own, our grateful hearts know that anything less than everything is too little.