Franciscan Spirit Blog

Lent with the Saints: Martha and Mary

Isaiah 42:1–7; Psalm 27:1, 2, 3, 13–14; John 12:1–1

During Holy Week, the liturgy begins telling the story of the passion of Jesus. The four Gospels do not offer consistent versions of Jesus’ passion and death. They know nothing of the style of reporting found in the twenty-four–hour news cycle of today! Instead, the Gospels offer theological reflection, taking common details from the tradition and shaping them to each story’s purpose.

John’s Gospel suggests that one event triggering the arrest of Jesus is the raising of Lazarus. In that story, we meet Martha and Mary, sisters of Lazarus, and hear them dialogue with Jesus about resurrection and life. Today’s story is a peaceful interlude in the home of these same close friends. Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume and dries his feet with her hair. This extravagance—a very loving gesture from a friend—sparks a debate between Jesus and Judas on helping the poor.

Who among us hasn’t had such an experience with friends, including heated discussions about serious topics? But John has a theological purpose: The climax of the Gospel is coming. Following this passage, Jesus enters Jerusalem and proclaims that his “hour” for him to be glorified has come. Then, echoing the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane in the other Gospels, Jesus prays to the Father, not for deliverance but for the Father to glorify his name. Jesus receives a response: The Father will do so, in all that will befall Jesus.

John is preparing us for the passion and death of Jesus. There, our Lord is in charge throughout, completing his mission as the Word made Flesh, to reveal the Father and draw those who believe into that life-giving relationship.

Today’s Action

What action can you perform for Jesus to symbolize the personal dimension of your relationship with him?


Jesus, draw us into your friendship.
May we enjoy the intimacy you offer us and the life you promise.

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