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Next week is the most significant week in the year for Christians. With the notable exception of the Eastern Orthodox churches (whose Easter is slightly later this year), next week Christians around the world will celebrate ‘Holy Week’. It is the culmination of the season of Lent, as we enter into the mystery of Christ’s Passion and Death, with the hope of Easter Day calling to us.

It is an opportune time to reflect on the importance of being kind to one another. Holy Monday’s daily reading (if you attend a Holy Communion service that day) is usually the account of Mary of Bethany anointing Jesus’ feet (John 12: 1–8). If you decide to read it, be prepared to be shocked, especially once you understand the culture of Jesus’ day. In the middle-eastern culture of the day, there were strict rules about human interactions. There were customs about whom you were allowed to eat with, for example. Jesus broke some of them, because of his love for outcasts and sinners. There were also very strict rules about social interactions between men and women.

In the encounter described in John 12, Mary of Bethany (not Jesus’ mother – this is a different Mary: the sister of Martha and Lazarus) breaks just about every social rule there was in Jesus’ day. As a woman who was not related to Jesus, there were quite strict rules about how she was allowed to interact with him. Taking some really expensive perfume, anointing Jesus’ feet, and then wiping his feet with her hair, was definitely not allowed!

She breaks all the rules. Why?

She is being kind to him. She is being extraordinarily generous and kind. When you do as much walking as Jesus did, probably wearing fairly simple sandals, your feet would be tired and sore. At a really basic level, Mary is showing Jesus an incredible kindness.

So, have a think for a moment, is there someone you love or even just respect, to whom you could be incredibly kind this week? How will you show that kindness to them? It could be something really simple. Never underestimate the power of doing something kind for someone else.

Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with an expensive and lovely perfume. She is generous and kind. There is a deeper meaning too, which is why we have this reading at the start of Holy Week. She is preparing him for his death. She is anointing him: like the warriors of old were anointed before battle, except that Jesus will remodel what it means to fight for others. His way of fighting will be the way of self-sacrifice on the cross. Mary is anointing him for that day.

Kindness and generosity, humility in serving someone else: Mary of Bethany teaches us all about these things. We would do worse than to follow her example.

God bless you as you enter Holy Week and look forward with joy to the hope of the resurrection on Easter Day.

Remember to be kind to others and yourself.

The Reverend Dr Theo McCall
School Chaplain