“Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was whom Jesus had raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; Martha served…” John 12
What a relief to finally reach the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus! After an emotional day in Jerusalem, filled with ecstatic crowds followed by the confrontation at the temple, their home must have felt like an oasis in the midst of this tumultuous week. Jesus briefly found a safe haven, a home filled with an uncomplicated, loving welcome and a meal that would nourish both body and spirit.
And there was Mary – loving, compassionate Mary – who “took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair” (John 12). Jesus recognized this loving gesture for what it was – a way of offering support, surrounding him with prayers and love, and blessing him with a sweet memory of compassion. For someone about to face unrelenting cruelty and unimaginable pain, it was a precious gift.
Relaxing at his friends’ house, Jesus did not have to give or provide anything. He didn’t preach or teach. For a sweet, short time, he simply received the love and devotion of one who cared.
Mary could not prevent the approaching agony. She was unable to shield Jesus from the pending pain and loss. She could not take his place. But she could offer comfort and an unmistakable sign of devotion. Jesus would carry this memory with him.
If it were in our power, all of us would protect our loved ones from pain and suffering. If it were up to us, we would ensure that family and friends would be shielded from life’s bruising power. We would stare down the forces of sickness, injustice and cruelty that destroy lives.
Yet we cannot always take away another’s pain. We cannot always shoulder others’ burdens and we are unable to shield even our precious loved ones from the agony that life can deliver.
- But we can care.
- We can pray.
- We can stand by their side.
- We can offer a compassionate heart and a listening ear.
- We can remind them they are not alone.
- We can love.
In a world that delivers mockery, discouragement, betrayal, and brutality, Mary shows us how to offer comfort. We may not be able to change someone’s situation, but we can bless them with loving kindness.
Mary’s courage and compassion teach us how to live the Gospel of love.