“Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” Regardless of Judas’ motives or what he would have done with the money he asks a reasonable question. A pound of perfume worth three hundred denarii. That’s a year’s worth of work and wages. How many people could that money have helped? Hungry people. Sick people. Homeless people. To pour it all out at one time on one person does not make sense. It is neither practical nor efficient. Love never is. Mary seems to know that practicalities and efficiency are perhaps the two greatest threats to love. They will, as Judas will prove, always betray the relationship.
In today’s gospel she fragrances the life and impending death of Jesus with “a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard.” It is not just perfume, however. It is the entirety of her life, all that she is and all that she has. Nothing is held back. Mary loves while Judas calculates.
I can’t help but wonder how my own need for and attraction to practicalities and efficiency have diminished and betrayed love. Too often I have calculated instead of loved. Mary is the picture of extravagant, wasteful, unreasonable love.
Mary’s love foreshadows, prophesies, Jesus’ love. She anoints the feet of the one who will wash the feet of his disciples. She pours herself out on the one who will pour himself out on the world. Jesus’ love will cost everything he has. He holds nothing in reserve.
“Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” Because the love of God is priceless.
by Michael Marsh