RCL Year C Lent 5
Isaiah 43:16-21; Psalm 126; Philippians 3:4b-14; Saint John 12:1-8

The Gospel jus proclaimed has been a Sunday Gospel in the Episcopal Church for only a few years. It has long been the Gospel on Monday of Holy Week.  It prepares us to celebrate the Lord’s death and resurrection despite its charming homeliness.  This Gospel causes us to bring to mind our response to him who is the resurrection and the life.

Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany—they’re a family worth getting to know through the Scriptures.  You remember that Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, in the chapter before this one, after Jesus has a long discussion with Martha, which includes, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.  Do you believe this?”  And Martha says, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world.”[1]

Now at a supper, after Lazarus was raised, Mary has her turn.  While her sister Martha is serving and Lazarus is sitting at table, Mary takes a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anoints the feet of Jesus.  Martha made her profession of faith in words; Mary now makes hers in a deed of striking symbolic importance.  Jesus understands and proclaims the symbolism.  Mary anoints Jesus’ feet before dinner.  But symbolically, she anoints his body for burial.  He who is the resurrection and the life has to die in order to be the resurrection and the life.  Martha’s profession of faith doesn’t capture this.  But Mary’s does.  Together, Martha and Mary give us examples of how to respond to Jesus.

You can respond with thoughts and words, as Martha does.  Or you can respond with a deep symbolic devotion, as Mary does.  It doesn’t matter which response you make.  The kingdom is for everyone, everyone of good will, whose engagement with the Lord may be like Martha’s or like Mary’s.

Palm Sunday and Holy Week stretch before us.  Now we know that our response counts, whether it is like Martha’s or like Mary’s, thoughtful or heartfelt.  But we should remember that Jesus who dies and lives, who died and lived, doesn’t give us every option.  We cannot ignore him or be indifferent to him.  Next Sunday, on Palm Sunday, we shall call either for him or for Barabbas, and in that choice our whole biography will be written.


[1] Saint John 11:25-27.