John 12:3 – Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
The wedding was glorious, but the reception can be described using only one word: enchanting. The entire space was brilliant with twinkle lights adding just the right amount of ambient sparkle. The linen covered round tables could easily accommodate eight guests, but because of the world condition at the time, social distancing was essential. Each table was set for only four people, and the two of us found ourselves at table seven with a mother and her nine-year-old-flower-girl daughter. After three minutes of chit-chat, I realized our little quartet would not remain strangers as we were kindred spirits who fell into an easy rhythm of conversation. The fellowship may have been jeopardized had our table been filled to capacity, and I was pleased to relax into the intimacy of conversation for four.
Adding to the warmth of the night, the air filled with the familiar music of our youth. To the delight of our youngest tablemate, the three adults hummed along, swayed to the tempos, and exchanged our trivia knowledge matching tunes to movies of our era.
I have often attended events where minutes masquerade as hours, but not on this occasion. On this evening, time passed quickly as we patiently awaited the arrival of the bride and groom. Even as I believed nothing could create a more delightful experience, the cocktail hour arrived with an open bar – but not in the traditional sense. During this non-alcoholic gathering, we would be drinking in the aroma of mini pancakes fresh from the griddle. We wasted no time making our way to the pancake bar filled with fresh fruits and syrups and compotes… enchanting.
Having spent back-to-back evenings with friends old and new, we returned home with a transformed idea of what true hospitality looks like. Attention to detail and a sincere caring for the comfort of others was evident at every turn. In my vocation, the merging of two families can become predictable and sometimes even mundane. This wedding was remarkable for its innovativeness and generosity. This was more than a simple dinner; we felt loved.
In the Gospel of John, we learn of the days just prior to the Passover feast when Jesus enters the home of Lazarus and his sisters. With Martha busy preparing the mini pancake bar and serving the guests, Mary turns her attention to true hospitality. She pours out her most prized possession of perfumed oil on Jesus’ feet, creates an enchanting moment, and wipes his feet with her hair. The reception may have been in Jesus’ honor, but he knew this was more than a simple dinner. With her actions, Mary had prepared Jesus for the final leg of his human journey. She had exhibited a sincere caring for him that was evident at every turn. Mary had anointed and prepared Jesus for his coming burial, and he felt loved.
Throughout this holiest of weeks, I pray that my Lenten journey toward the cross may be filled with enchanting moments – moments where I pay attention to details and exhibit a sincere caring for the comfort of others. May God use me as those around me are prepared for their own journeys, and may God be glorified as they feel loved.
Sending you holy hospitality,
PRAYER FROM JOHN 12
Anointing God, thank you for the enchanting story of Mary and her selfless gift of oil poured out on Jesus. When I encounter someone in need of anointing – whether for preparing or healing – help me to offer the same kind of generosity and caring. Amen.