Holy Week began with Palm Sunday celebrations and today Fr Paul Gooley reads from the Gospel of John (12: 1-11) which tells the story of the anointing of Jesus’ feet with costly ointment at Bethany six days before he makes his way to Jerusalem for Passover.

Fr Paul says in Mark and Matthew Gospel’s the woman who anoints the feet of Jesus is unnamed, but John names her as Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus. John is more familiar with Jerusalem and its environment than are Mark, Luke and Matthew, and may have the family as his source.

Mary’s act of loving, personal affection and devotion is treasured. John’s comment that the scent filled the house shows a touching approval, too. It will be remembered that Mary was the sister who stayed listening at Jesus’ side while Martha busied herself with practical details. This casts her as a figure of prayer and listening. Her sign of affection must have been valuable to Jesus as he rested at Bethany after the threatening controversies in the Temple. His response shows just how tense Jesus must have been.

So, at this tense moment it makes Judas’ response seem a bit brutal – no matter how practical it might have been on other occasions.

Fr Paul invites us to reflect on the challenge of today’s Gospel – Mary again sits at the feet of Jesus and as an act of love she prepares Jesus for burial so as Holy Week begins let us, too, sit and listen with love.