MARCH 13, 2016
BY: JR JANDAYAN
“Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” John 12:3
In Palestine, when a woman reached adulthood her hair was tied up, generally in a bun or a braid, and then covered. It was never seen by anyone outside of her family. Her hair was a symbol of the glory of the Lord as a covering (1 Cor. 11:15) and was let down at home and around her family only. On the other hand, when an honored guest would enter any household, their head was anointed with oil which was a way for the host to pronounce a blessing of joy on his guest (Ps. 23:5, Heb. 1:9). Most of the time a host would anoint the honored guest’s head with oil (Luke 7:46), but Mary anointed Jesus’ feet. (Warnke, n.d.)
We see in today’s Gospel the kind of love that Mary had for Christ in that, knowing what He had to fulfill, she was deeply moved to serve Him by anointing His feet with her hair. It was an act of humility on Mary’s part that she went even beyond their tradition of anointing guests. We may find it hard to relate to what Mary did since her culture is different from ours as Filipinos. Yet as part of our heritage we were raised by our parents, whenever we visited someone in their house, to show respect to the household by leaving our footwear by the door. The most common gesture of respect amongst Filipino youth is, when we visit a family relative, to ask blessing from our uncles, aunties, lolos or lolas by the act of “Mano po.” This practice has been instilled in us since childhood as our culture’s way of showing respect.
Today’s Gospel reminds us, and especially the youth, of why we do this: it is an act of humility that we need to practice. It’s not just a common tradition or cultural curiosity that was handed down by our parents, but it is a humble and respectful character of heart that our parents want to teach us. I compare the simple act of “Mano po” with Mary’s anointing of Jesus feet, because I believe it is an important tradition that we cannot do away with. Especially in this technological day and age where communication with our parents, siblings or relatives can be done through the projection we see of them on our devices, the actual physical touch and relationship with our loved ones cannot be replaced. The challenge for us today is to cherish our relationships with one another just like Mary, and make the love of Christ known to everyone!