In today\’s Gospel, Jesus is again having dinner with his friends Martha, Mary and Lazarus in Bethany. To express her love, Mary anoints Jesus\’ feet with \”a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard\” and dries them with her hair. Judas Iscariot is scandalized. Why was this expensive oil not sold and the money given to the poor? But Jesus gently reprimands His soon-to-be betrayer: \”Leave her alone…You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.\”
There is a connection between Mary\’s loving gesture and the contemplative religious life. People sometimes wonder, \”Why are you in a cloistered monastery? You all have so many talents and abilities that could be put to such good use in the world!\” But there is no worldly logic to explain the choice we have made. It is simply the desire to offer ourselves completely, like fragrant ointment, to the Lord, to pour out our lives in service to Him. If the Lord calls us to serve Him in a way that gets noticed (for example by writing a book), that is His business. If He calls us to live our daily lives in complete obscurity, that is His prerogative. We have given up everything to follow Him, to be completely at His disposal. And it is for us a great joy, a greater joy than most people realize. So too Mary must have felt joy as she anointed Jesus\’ feet and dried them with her hair. There are many, many people who exude the good odor of Christ through their lives in the world, and thank God for them. But it is also necessary to have a few who just want to \”waste\” their lives on Jesus. \”The house was filled with the fragrance of the oil\”. So too is the Church.