The 6th Sunday of the Great Lent that has just touched our lives is bordered by two resurrections. The first is the resurrection of a man, Lazarus and the latter is the Resurrection of God the Savior Himself.
The Lord raised Lazarus from the dead and a week later, having trampled down death by death and having conquered all the powers of Hades, He freed Himself from the claws of death. In between these two resurrections is the event that is described in the Gospel. (John 12:1-18)
Having raised His friend Lazarus from the dead, Christ spend some time in the company of other friends. Martha, the sister of Lazarus was busy preparing and serving the meal (John 12:2). Lazarus was one of those who were sitting around the table, according to the testimony of St. John. Nothing would prepare the guests for the events that would take place. Suddenly, “Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the hair. (John 12:3)
There are few places in the Gospels where one can find superlatives in a verse. St. John the Evangelist emphasizes that the oil was very costly. Just how costly it was, we will learn from the one who was obsessed with money. “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” (John 12:5) asked Judas the Iscariot who later sold his teacher as well as his own soul to the devil for 30 silver pieces.
Certain theologians assert that three hundred denarii was a yearly salary of a worker in that day. Now we understand the value of the oil that Mary poured over the feet of her Lord.
The compassionate Lord, who Himself had lived a very humble life, did not let Himself be convinced by the materialistic logic of His traitor. “Let her alone,” He said, “She has kept this for the day of My burial.” (John 12:7)
St. Mark the Evangelist goes further in quoting Christ’s words: “She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial.” (Mark 14:8)
The word “beforehand” stands out in my mind.
We priests attend and participate in funerals more often than you do. The worthiest and most honorable on the planet can be found in the tiny lots of land that are called graveyards. The noblest words that the human heart can utter are said there.
And I ask myself, and so should you: could not these words have been uttered before a person becomes cold and lifeless, and deaf to human speech?
It was on freshly dug graves that I have seen the most beautiful flowers that a human eye can gaze upon. A few days after a burial, or after just one day in the sweltering heat or in the bitter cold, these flowers wither and die and become garbage. In the end they turn into an unsightly mess and spoil the somber beauty of a grave.
I ask myself, and you should, too: could not these flowers have been brought to the deceased while he or she was living?
If nothing else, this act of pouring very costly oil on the feet of a living Christ instructs us to do good – while there is time.
Pascha is at hand. Few of us have fasted the past several weeks. Sadly, few of us will fast in the coming week which marks Christ’s passion. We have feasted, and we will do so even more at Pascha. Will any of us ask how many of our brothers and sisters in this town will not be able to afford a special meal for Pascha, just as they have not been able to afford meals in the past weeks? No. We are the fortunate ones, our hardships are over, and we do not care for others, do we?
We talk a lot, establishing a new order for this world, we talk about borders and ethnicities, yet we fail to see our hungry brothers who we bump into in the street. Does anyone even know how many Serbs there are who are getting their meals from food banks?
As many similar cases arise, the less Serbs there are. Only in the cemeteries is there an abundance of us. We go to funerals, bring beautiful wreaths of flowers and hold speeches. In His Gospel Christ teaches us to do good beforehand, while we still can.