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A fragrant aroma for God

Very often, we speak about giving the best to the Lord and it is not uncommon to use the phrase: ‘Sunday best’. What exactly does it mean to give the best to the Lord?

Because we are humans and tactical people, it could translate into giving earthly and material things to the Lord. For example, in the Old Testament, Proverbs 27:9, mentions that: “Oil and perfume make the heart glad, so the counsel of a person is sweet to his friend”.

In Ephesians 5:2, it mentions that those who walk in love, just as Christ also loved and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.

Fragrant aromatic substances, including ointments, anointing oils, and incense are mentioned in quite a few places in sacred scripture and they were used for several religious rituals including health purposes, as well as, personal reasons and in funerals.

In addition, several fragrant spices and oils are also mentioned in the Bible. For example, the sweet smell burning on the altar in the tabernacle was fragrant incense made of equal parts of stacte, onycha, galbanum, and pure frankincense according to Exodus 30:7, 34–35.

It must be noted that it was set aside only for sacred purpose since God did not permit any personal use of it. Exodus 30:37–38 states that: “Whoever makes any like it, to smell it, he shall be cut off from his people”.

The sacred scriptures clearly show that the burning of incense is a type of prayer going up to the throne of God as noted in Psalm 41:2 and in Revelation 5:8; 8:3–4.

Thus, our prayers, contrite and genuine, form a sweet fragrance to almighty God and could be considered as “giving the best to the Lord”.

Using this Sunday’s Gospel alternative readings (Year A, Jn 11:1–45), Jesus encourages the woman to anoint His feet with the costly perfume even when it was suggested that it should be sold and the money be given to the poor.

Why did Jesus take this seemingly radical position especially when He often insists that we ought to align and identify ourselves with the poor? Through this gesture, Jesus wants us to move beyond and make the apt connection between the material giving, costly perfume, and the spiritual, a humble and contrite heart.

For example, as we constantly give great and outstanding material gifts to the Lord, this act ought to be translated into the spiritual domain.

This is underscored in Romans 12:1, where it states that: “I encourage you therefore, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God which is your reasonable service”.

A similar sentiment is also expressed in the letter to the Hebrews 13:15–16: “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of lips that confess his name…for with such sacrifices God is pleased”.

It is clear that this is the best offering/perfume that we can offer the Master. According to Hebrews 13:16, we must always remember to do good and share with others, for such sacrifices please the heart of Almighty God and further spurs us to give our best like the woman in the gospel today. In the midst of affliction, she was unafraid of demonstrating her great love and devotion to the Master.

Jesus was satisfied with the anointing of the costly ointment. He was equally delighted with the kind gesture because the woman expressed profound repentance for her sins—she moved from the material to the spiritual domain.

Today, more than ever, we are called to gladden the heart of God. Because we live in this world, we ought to share and partake wisely in its benefits and riches. However, this act ought to motivate and push us to make a spiritual offering to the Lord.

What is the best spiritual gift we can offer the Master, this fifth Sunday of Lent? How can we try to sincerely gladden and genuinely please the heart of God? Psalm 51:17, provides us with an apt response. It states that: “A humble and contrite heart O Lord, You will not despise”. Therefore, let us make that very special effort to daily offer our contrite hearts to the Lord with full assurance and deep faith that He will accept them.

Let us pray.

As Christians, we genuinely want to give our best and sometimes, presenting material goods and making special offerings, form a part of our lives.

In addition, we want to give You the best, that is, the gift of a humble and contrite heart. We want to be like the woman and deeply express remorse and sorrow for our numerous sins.

Thus, we ask You, dear Lord to write the words of the prophet Isaiah 66:2, deep in our hearts: “This is the one to whom I will look. He who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word”. We make this prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen.