Service as a Sacrament

Donald R. Elly, M. Div.

This reflection is on Mary’s service to Jesus as she anoints his feet and dries them with her hair.  It is dedicated to every ordinary member of the congregation who week in and week out provide “a sacrament of service.  

A sacrament is a visible sign of an inward grace.”  In this intimate act Mary visibly serves Jesus by doing what might have been done by a slave or the master of the house. Hospitality to guests implies taking care of the whole person. I believe it is sacramental because it reveals her love for Jesus and gratitude for raising Lazarus. The action of humbling herself and demonstrating care for Jesus may well have set in motion Jesus’ washing of his disciple’s feet as part of the Last Supper.  What a powerful example to all of us who lead in Jesus’ name.  We must be willing to serve those we lead.  

It does seem to me that Mary balances out the contrast often drawn between Mary and Martha.  We exalt Martha’s dinner preparation as more important than listening and learning from Jesus. Mary reminds me of a recent funeral  for a female colleague who for 47 years quietly served Jesus and impacted her Church and world.   My parents also, without fanfare served Jesus by witnessing to the love of Jesus for everyone regardless of race and religion, standing up for everyone’s civil rights. 

It is the daily actions of sacramental service that make the Church more than a building. Often these acts of service done quietly are more effective than preaching, teaching and being a visible leader.  The greeter introduces people to one another and furthers the growth of relationships involved in the sacrament of service.

Anointing Jesus feet–as a displaying of affection was Mary’s way of acknowledging her loyalty to him. It was a display of faith in a time of stress. The Churches of which we are all apart have many like Mary, Martha and Lazarus who carry out the sacrament of service. 

Take a moment and offer a prayer of thanks to God for these faithful servants who are the witnesses God depends on daily. 

April 7, 2019      Cycle C                5th Sunday of Lent

Isaiah 43:1-21; Psalm 126; Phil. 3:4b-14    *John 12: 1-8










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