In this reading, we hear about Jesus’ last visit with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. We also hear about Judas Iscariot, but that is a later reflection. Most people see this story as prefiguring Jesus’ death, but i would like to suggest, instead, that it anticipates the resurrection. In this passage, we are offered a taste of how to live in the eternal, vibrant moment, here in the present, not some extrapolated future.
China Gallard says in The Bond between Women, “…there is a goodness, a Wisdom, that arises…to save us if we let it; it arises from within us, like the force that drives green shoots to break the winter ground; it will arise and drive us into blossoming…into fragrance, fruit, and song…into that part of ourselves that can never be defiled, defeated, or destroyed, but that comes back to life…that lives always, that does not die.”
Mary recognizes in Jesus the need to act as well as speak the convictions of his life. With him, she understands that suffering and death may be the only way to life. In him, she sees the life of the divine, which most of us try to hide from ourselves. For him, she affirms and acknowledges the dangerous path, and the purity of purpose that leads him. In Jesus, Mary sees the Divine clearly and trusts that energy, that unspeakable Love.
It is not surprising that the other disciples feel anxious at this. They still have their own ideas about who and how Jesus should be. They want him to choose their paths, their methods, their picture of him. At different times in the church’s life we, too, have tried to squeeze the portrait of Jesus into our own self portraits. His freedom frightens us, suggests we may not have all the answers, or even any of the right answers. But Mary is wise. She responds to him and affirms him and his choices without first straining him through the lens of her own needs.
The Sikh poet Adi Granth wrote,
Why do you go to the forest in search of God?
The Holy One lives in I all and is yet ever distinct
God abides with you, too,
As fragrance dwells in a flower,
And reflection in a mirror;
So does the Divine dwell inside everything.
Seek the Holy therefore in your heart.
Mary recognizes the holy in Jesus, a holiness mirrored also in herself. This mutuality of spirit reveals God. And Jesus allows her to care for him with honesty and tenderness. Compassion cannot be offered until it has been received and experienced. No wonder the others are nervous. There is only one other response to this situation and that is to surrender the self to this ocean of love. But therein lies danger.
In that surrender, there are no guarantees; only hope.