Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization

"Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization"

Check out the revised edition of this exciting and unique prayer book, filled with prayers that are sure to nourish the soul as we undertake the New Evangelization.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Mary of Bethany

Jesus clearly loved the family of Mary, Martha and Lazarus.  They were close to His Heart.  He wept when Lazarus died; showed special attention to their needs; and included them in His life and ministry. 


Martha is celebrated in the Church on July 29th but not her sister Mary.  In times past, Mary the sister of Martha was assumed to be the same person as Mary of Magdala (Magdalene).  Mary Magdalene has also been used as an “everywoman,” e.g. in Jesus Christ Superstar she is given to bear the roles of the “sinful woman” (usually interpreted as a prostitute) and the woman who wiped the feet of Jesus in addition to her own personhood as a disciple out of whom Jesus cast seven demons.  For the witness of her great conversion and her privilege as the first to see the Resurrection, she is a saint.  In the year of Mercy, Pope Francis elevated the celebration of Mary Magdalene to the dignity of a Feast in the Universal Church.  By conflating the two Marys, we do a disservice to both.  Such a conflation makes Mary Magdalene out to be a prostitute, when in fact she was not, and glosses over the unique story of Mary of Bethany. 


Back to Mary of Bethany.  Matthew, Mark and John all situate the anointing of Jesus in the context of the Passion.  Matthew and Mark both record that a woman anoints Jesus while at table in the house of “Simon the Leper.”  None of the three describe her as sinful.  John is specific about Jesus being in the home of Marth and Mary.  Martha serves and Mary anoints Jesus, thus they both take on their respective roles of service and devotion as in Luke chapter 10.  Jesus quiets the indignant disciples by saying that Mary has done an act of love which is her way of preparing Jesus for His impending death and burial.  Bethany is clearly the home of Mary and Martha, a very distinct place from Magdala.  Bethany is in Judea, while Magdala is in Galilee.   Jesus visits the home of Martha and Mary (Luke 10), which we are told is Bethany in the story of the raising of Lazarus (John 11). 


Luke, who is always unique in his writing of the Gospel stories in order to emphasize Jesus’ ministry to the poor and marginalized, contextualizes the anointing at the house of Simon the PHARISEE and earlier in the life of Jesus than the others.  Here the woman is clearly a sinner, a woman of ill repute.  Jesus pardons her sins in a great act of mercy.  Jesus is chastised for giving time for a sinner but it is precisely to sinners that He came.  Through this story, Luke shows the purpose of Jesus’ incarnate life: not to entertain the prestigious but to save sinners. 


Notice how important this story must have been for the disciples, since it appears in all four Gospels!  They all remembered and treasured the lessons of this encounter between Jesus and the woman.  Luke’s account includes many of the same details, even if it is situated for literary purposes in a different time in Jesus’ life.  What is Mary of Bethany is the “sinful woman”?  Then, all the more reason why, after experiencing the mercy of Jesus and conversion from sin, she would remain devoted to Him and would do anything for Him.  Perhaps she is even the “other Mary” (Matthew 28:1) who appears at the Resurrection scenes.  In that case, she could not be the same person as Mary Magdalene.  But it would be no surprise that these two women, for whom Jesus had revealed Himself as Savior and Divine Physician, would be spiritual friends and travel to the tomb together. 


All this having been said, it would seem appropriate to give the converted sinner and devoted disciple of Jesus MARY OF BETHANY a feast day in the Church.  Mary of Bethany is a repentant sinner who has learned to sit at the feet of Jesus and pour out her love to Him.  That is all of us if we are honest and actively seeking to know Christ more every day.  That image of hope deserves to be lifted up for all to see. 


Matthew 26

The Anointing at Bethany.*

6 Now when Jesus was in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper,

7 a woman came up to him with an alabaster jar of costly perfumed oil, and poured it on his head while he was reclining at table.

8 When the disciples saw this, they were indignant and said, “Why this waste?

9 It could have been sold for much, and the money given to the poor.”

10 Since Jesus knew this, he said to them, “Why do you make trouble for the woman? She has done a good thing for me.

11 The poor you will always have with you; but you will not always have me.

12 * In pouring this perfumed oil upon my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.

13 Amen, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be spoken of, in memory of her.”



The Anointing at Bethany.*

3 When he was in Bethany reclining at table in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of perfumed oil, costly genuine spikenard. She broke the alabaster jar and poured it on his head.

4 There were some who were indignant. “Why has there been this waste of perfumed oil?

5 It could have been sold for more than three hundred days’ wages and the money given to the poor.” They were infuriated with her.

6 Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you make trouble for her? She has done a good thing for me.

7 The poor you will always have with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them, but you will not always have me.

8 She has done what she could. She has anticipated anointing my body for burial.

9 Amen, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed to the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”


Luke 7

The Pardon of the Sinful Woman.*

36 A Pharisee invited him to dine with him, and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table.*

37 Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee. Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment,

38 she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.”

40 Jesus said to him in reply, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said.

41 “Two people were in debt to a certain creditor; one owed five hundred days’ wages* and the other owed fifty.

42 Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both. Which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon said in reply, “The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.” He said to him, “You have judged rightly.”

44 Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair.

45 You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered.

46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment.

47 So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love.* But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”

48 He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The others at table said to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 But he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”


John 12

The Anointing at Bethany.

1 * Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.

2 They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served, while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him.

3 Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus* and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.

4 Then Judas the Iscariot, one [of] his disciples, and the one who would betray him, said,

5 “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages* and given to the poor?”

6 He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions.

7 So Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial.*

8 You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

9 [The] large crowd of the Jews found out that he was there and came, not only because of Jesus, but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.

10 And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too,

11 because many of the Jews were turning away and believing in Jesus because of him.


Luke 10

Martha and Mary.*

38 As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.

39 * She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.

40 Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.”

41 The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.

42 * There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”


John 11

The Raising of Lazarus.*

1 Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.

2 Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil and dried his feet with her hair; it was her brother Lazarus who was ill.

3 So the sisters sent word to him, saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.”

4 When Jesus heard this he said, “This illness is not to end in death,* but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

6 So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was.

7 Then after this he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?”

9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in a day? If one walks during the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.

10 But if one walks at night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”*

11 He said this, and then told them, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.”

12 So the disciples said to him, “Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.”

13 But Jesus was talking about his death, while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep.

14 So then Jesus said to them clearly, “Lazarus has died.

15 And I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe. Let us go to him.”

16 So Thomas, called Didymus,* said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go to die with him.”

17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.

18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles* away.

19 And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother.

20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home.

21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.

22 [But] even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.”

24 Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.”

25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,

26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

27 *She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”

28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, “The teacher is here and is asking for you.”

29 As soon as she heard this, she rose quickly and went to him.

30 For Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still where Martha had met him.

31 So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her saw Mary get up quickly and go out, they followed her, presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there.

32 When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed* and deeply troubled,

34 and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Sir, come and see.”

35 And Jesus wept.

36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.”

37 But some of them said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?” 

38 So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it.

39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him, “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.”

40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”

41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father,* I thank you for hearing me.

42 I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.”

43 And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice,* “Lazarus, come out!”

44 The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”