This Sunday draws our attention toward the peculiar nature of Christian sacrifice as the “place” where true joy is to be found.
In particular we witness the sacrifice of Mary of Bethany who anoints Jesus with a large amount of very expensive ointment, drawing the scorn of Judas. (John 12:1-8). Jesus tells us that Mary’s sacrifice is directly related to his sacrifice.
How might Mary’s sacrifice help us understand Jesus’ sacrifice? Our inclination is to make cost the most critical factor in sacrifice. Thus Judas criticizes Mary’s sacrifice for its cost, because the money might have been better used to relieve the suffering of the poor. Jesus, however focuses on Mary’s attentiveness toward him. He focuses on her love.
This reminds us that the most critical factor in Christian sacrifice is always self-offering love. It is not easy to maintain our focus on our love of God, God’s love of us, and our love of each other as we pass through the many challenges of life. The violence, suffering, and confusion of the world distract us and threaten to despoil us of the joy of these intertwined loves – God’s for us, and ours for God and each other. Sometimes we may worry that we are responsible for initiating, or earning, or sustaining the love of God, or the love of others. But the liturgy, the life of the Church, the passion of our Lord, are dimensions of God’s gift of love to us. We do not have to make it happen. We need only pay attention, fix our hearts on the love of God in Christ as the “place” where true joy, true purpose, true life is to be found. And trust that love will work its transforming power on us as it did on Mary of Bethany, even to the point where it shall be our joy, as it was hers, to give all that we have and all that we are in and out of love for God.