Monday, December 5, 2011

Rich Exchange of Hearts: Example of True Love

Mark 14:1-11 tells the story of a woman anointing the head of Jesus with a whole jar of expensive perfumed ointment, at the house of Simon the Leper in Bethany.  This account doesn't say this was Mary Magdalene, or Mary, sister of Lazarus and Martha, it just says woman, and immersing myself as a woman who loves Jesus is more attractive to me right now, than researching who commentators say this woman was.  As most of you who come here regularly are also on the path pursuing a deeper love relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord, I wanted to post on this today.

While defending her action, Jesus says, "What she has done for me is one of the good works. . . . She has done what was in her power to do:  she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial." Mark 14:6b, 8

Fr. John Bartunek in The Better Part has powerful meditation on this passage, that I have to share with you, so it might touch you as I have been touched by it.

We can imagine the depth of understanding between them.  Jesus knows her heart, and she knows that he knows, and with utter simplicity and confidence she expresses what is in her heart and what she can no longer contain.  He looks into her eyes as she approaches him, and smiles.  She adores him, she performs this gesture of welcome and appreciation.  This rich exchange of hearts is inaccessible to the others. . . . 

  • The woman's gesture was generous, and true love is generous.  Love flows like a waterfall, like a rushing fountain . . . 
  • The woman's gesture was costly, and true love is costly.
  • Since love by definition is self-giving, when one loves one necessarily feels a certain loss, a certain self-sacrifice.  
  • The loss yields a profound joy, because the beloved benefits (and because we are created to love). . . . 
  • The woman's gesture was beautiful, and true love is the most beautiful reality of all.
Citing William Barclay's Daily Study Bible, Fr. Bartunek says that St. Mark's use of the Greek word kalos rather than agathos when Jesus describes her "good work" is significant, because Greek has two words for "good".  Agathos means strict moral goodness, "while kathos connotes moral goodness, with a winsome, elegant, charming twist. . . . True love goes beyond the cold exactitude of dry duty; true love gives with a smile, a flourish, and a delicacy that not only meets the beloved's needs but meets them in a lovely, pleasing way."

Jesus's own true love is shown in his passion.  He doesn't just pour out "a symbolic drop" of his blood.  "He generously pours out all of his blood . . . he suffers betrayal, rejection, humiliation, injustice, physical (emotional, and spiritual) torment, and mockery".

O Wisdom of God, thank you for leaving us this example of one woman's great love for you in the Bible.  Thank you for defending her.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, thank you for your most generous, costly, self-emptying, and beautiful love, being born in humility and poverty in a manager, in living a life of self-giving love, teaching, and healing, for laying down your life as the Lamb of God to bear our sins, and restore us as children of God.  Thank you for staying with us until the end of the world in the generous giving of the Blessed Sacrament, and the Holy Spirit to dwell within us and mold us into your image.

I love you, Lord!


  1. This post is fascinating, Colleen and I loved learning the difference between agathos and kathos. Though these words both mean good the difference between the two is incredible, isn't it? I had never heard of this before. Thank you! I join you in your beautiful prayer too!

  2. Thanks, Mary. Interestingly, EWTN, that also uses the RSV Catholic edition, has different version of verse 6 than the Better Part, which also says it uses the RSV Catholic edition. EWTN's Mark 11:6 reads: But Jesus said, "Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. That emphasizes that the love she showed him was not just good, but beautiful and pleasing to the beloved, in keeping with the original kathos.