Monday of Holy Week
(Isaiah 42:1-7; John 12:1-11)
Of all the signs that a person leaves behind at death, none can be greater than her body. The dead body, of course, looks like the living person. It often indicates whether the person suffered before dying. In order to preserve the body temporarily, perhaps as an aid to mourning, Jews anointed the dead body. Anointing became a sign of respect for the dead person and perhaps an honor due her.
In today’s gospel Mary anoints Jesus’ feet. Her motive is not stated. Perhaps she does it in thanksgiving for Jesus’ resuscitating Lazarus. Jesus, however, interprets the act as preparation of his body for burial. He realizes that the time for him to complete the work of redemption is at hand. Although she may be unaware of it, Mary is prophetically proclaiming Jesus’ death.
With Jesus we all die. At least, this is our belief and also, quite counterintuitively, our hope to overcome death. If we die with him in love with God and neighbor, then we will rise with him. Death has lost its finality for us Christians living in self-sacrificing love. Whether we anoint our dead or cremate them, we know that death will give way to the resurrection. This is the Easter faith that we celebrate throughout this long Holy Week.