Saint Mary of Bethany
By Sara Bergeron
Saint Mary of Bethany is a woman who was one of the disciples of Jesus. In the Catholic Tradition, unlike Protestant belief, Mary of Bethany is the same Mary that was mentioned on three separate occasions in the Bible: 1.) the sinner who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears; 2.) the woman caught in adultery (Mary Magdalene); and 3.) Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus who was raised from the dead. She was a believer in Christ and proclaimed the Gospel in various lands. Mary of Bethany is a biblical figure described in the Gospels of John and Luke in the New Testament. She lived in the village of Bethany near Jerusalem and – when mentioned with her sister, Martha – is a contemplative soul who learned to hear the voice of God in her life. She was much different from her sister Martha who preoccupied herself with work as an end in itself instead of allowing the work to bring her to Christ. Mary of Bethany was known as the woman who sat at Jesus’ feet and “took the place of a disciple by sitting at the feet of the teacher.” This was something that was unusual, but Mary did so and she became a disciple. Being at the feet of the teacher, Mary learned a lot from Jesus.
Mary is said to have been the sinful woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, and anointed them with perfumed oil that she brought with her in an alabaster jar to the house of a Pharisee. Many saw this action as controversial: Jesus was allowing a sinner to touch him. Jesus responded by rebuking them and said, “leave her alone, it was intended that she should give this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” Jesus saw her heart and knew that she was repentant of her sins. If all people were like this, they would be able to listen to Jesus more closely and would be able to obey his commands and ignore other distractions.
This incident brought up some controversy amongst the people of Jerusalem. I think that Mary did the right thing because it signified her repentant relationship with Jesus. The perfume that Mary used signified the mercy and grace of Jesus. Because of her willingness to pour her life out at Jesus’ feet, ask for forgiveness, and change her sinful life, she was able to carry this “scent of God’s grace” with her throughout the rest of her life. Others did not agree with what she did because they judged her and their hearts were hardened; they did not have the same repentant relationship with Jesus as Mary did.
Everyone can and should have a relationship with Jesus as Mary did. Everyone can come to Jesus carrying their own “perfume”. If someone wishes to bring to Jesus their “perfume” or charitable acts, or do a particular thing to remember him or recognize him, then I believe that they can and should do this. Jesus would want people to come to him in their own way and would appreciate their willingness to be open to his life. Not everyone prays in the same manner and not everyone talks to Jesus or the Father in the same way; we all have our own individual relationships with Christ. I think that this is an important reason why no one understood Mary. They were judging her heart based on her past actions and did not see her repentance and love that she now had for Jesus. If people understood Mary a little better, they may have been able to understand why she used perfume and may have been able to see why Jesus accepted her and welcomed her actions.
A few people of Jerusalem were upset that Mary spent all of her money on this particular perfume. This shouldn’t be a concern because Mary wanted to spend her money on this important perfume to show that she was giving Jesus all she had. She probably was aware that others knew her as the sinful woman but she did not care. She wanted to give this to Jesus. I believe that Mary would want everyone to treat Jesus as she treated him; she recognized him as the Messiah. I believe that she wants everyone to have a good relationship with Jesus. Mary also may want every individual to find our own special way to grow in our love for Jesus throughout our lives. I believe that Mary would be able to teach every individual how to truly be repentant of our sins. If everyone would follow her example and nurture their own relationship with Jesus we would be able to understand ourselves better and be transformed into a completely new person like Mary was; we’d be able to become saints.