I realise that these words may disappoint some who spent ten dollars on the fake perfume but can you imagine how disappointed Judas was when he saw what Mary did? He would need to work for a year, without eating, drinking and paying rent, to save up for such perfume. His disappointment revealed two things about him. Firstly, he was good at calculating the worth of material things. Secondly he was hopeless at calculating the value of spiritual, divine things.
My Dear Sisters and Brothers! The First Reading for today, taken from the Book of Kings, gave us some useful prayer which the young King Solomon prayed. Please listen to the prayer again: ‘Give your servant a heart to understand how to discern between good and evil.’ This is a prayer which can turn our mentality up side down. It does so because we tend to associate understanding with our mind not heart. We also perceive that heart is for love and not for such an ‘unromantic’ thing like discerning. A singer even sung: ‘I know, the heart does not obey orders.’ If it were true there wouldn’t be any silver or golden jubilees of marriage. If it were true there wouldn’t be people like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Maximilian Kolbe and many other known and unknown saints. Just imagine how sad and disappointing our world would be. Our Father in heaven doesn’t want us to live in such a world that’s why he has given us this prayer for ‘a heart to understand how to discern between good and evil.’ Our Father in heaven has given us also the Holy Spirit so that we could delight in good, so that the Psalm 118 which we prayed between our Readings today could become the prayer coming from the depth of our soul: ‘I love your commands more than finest gold. Your will is wonderful indeed; therefore I obey it. The unfolding of your word gives light and teaches the simple.’
When Mary of Bethany anointed the feet of Jesus she acted like the people in the first two short parables we heard this Sunday: someone who found treasure hidden in a filed and a merchant finding a beautiful pearl. These two people gave up all they had in order to get the treasure and the pearl. However all those passages of the Gospel cannot be explained by the practical mind of Judas or the emotional approach of the singer I have mentioned. The passages bring us into the discerning heart of Mary, the treasure seeker and the pearl merchant. It is the heart which finds that Jesus is good. He is good to us indeed but he is also the goodness himself. He is worth of all we are and have. He is worth of every effort we make to live life which is all about following him. If following him doesn’t cost us something is wrong. We are like the people coming from the Holy Land with a ten dollar bottle of perfume thinking that they have something authentic.