Master of the Legend of the Magdalene active probably in Brussels, ca. 1480–1530
Psalm 36:5-11 Isaiah 42:1-9 Hebrews 9:11-15 John 12:1-11
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Imagine the range of emotion in the room as Martha and Mary made final preparations for the supper that had been prepared for Jesus. There was unimaginable joy as they saw Lazarus seated contentedly at the table. The simple act of enjoying a meal with family and friends is newly profound. Lazarus had, after all, died only to be brought back to life (and to the table) by Jesus.
There was immeasurable gratitude bolstered by a long-established, very human, love for Jesus the man. Those gathered also were no doubt awestruck by the grace they had received from coming into intimate relationship with Jesus, the Son of God.
For Jesus, this supper must have seemed like a port in a storm; a rare moment of respite from the rancor engulfing him just outside those walls. Mary makes a grand gesture anointing Jesus with precious oil. (We are told its value was equivalent to a year’s wages for the average person). The house was filled with fragrance, as it was with love and devotion; but soon the stench of betrayal wafted through the air in the person of Judas. He expressed disapproval of Mary’s actions, and the subsequent rebuke of his words by Jesus must have stung and embarrassed him.
In these moments, Jesus demonstrates his humanness and his divinity. The fundamental act of sharing a meal with close friends gives him comfort. All the while he is fully aware of the ordeal he will soon endure, speaking to Judas of “the day of my burial.” Yet, he will willingly submit himself to suffering and death, a perfect sacrifice for the whole world.
He is the anointed one, and we are to be bolstered by his resolve. We are to follow Martha’s example and serve Him with unity, constancy, and peace.