Who is Jesus? What is He like? Jesus is not the things that many people dismiss as being. Jesus is not an ancient myth or a bedtime story. Jesus is not a heavenly Mr. Rogers. Jesus is not a mean guy on a cloud. Jesus is not a hippy and Jesus is not an unmanly wimp. Jesus is not a weirdo, or a freak, and yet Jesus is not ordinary either. Jesus is not a religious fanatic and yet Jesus is not tamed. Jesus is not far away and He is not inactive. Jesus is not out-of-date and He is not irrelevant. Jesus is not a joke but He is not a stick-in-the-mud either. Jesus is not just a “nice guy” or a “buddy.” Jesus is not just a Jewish carpenter who died a long time ago. Jesus is not just a social reformer or a moral teacher who transformed the entire world more than anybody else. Jesus Christ is God and the greatest human being alive.
Our secular culture and sometimes Christians themselves create false pictures of who Jesus is, what He’s like, and what He’s about. And these false depictions can make us hesitate to draw closer to Him. But with the real Jesus, there is nothing to be embarrassed about. In the real Jesus there is nothing to be afraid or ashamed of.
My prayer today is that each of you would all come to know the real Jesus Christ better. This is relationship is at the very core of what it is to be a Christian. Listen to what Pope Benedict wrote for the opening of his very first encyclical: “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” (This event, this person, is of course Jesus Christ.) “We have come to believe in God’s love.” In these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his or her life.
In today’s Gospel, Mary the sister of Lazarus approaches Jesus at a dinner with an alabaster jar of ointment. The jar was made of a type of marble and had a narrow neck to pour out the precious oil slowly. However, Mary breaks the jar and pours it entirely on Jesus’ feet, and its fragrance fills the house. When Judas saw this he criticized her, “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?” Some of the other disciples felt that way too. (Imagine spending $25,000 on a gift for someone.) But Mary knew the real Jesus in a way that Judas never would. She knew Him, and loved Him, and therefore desired to pour her entire self out for Him. If you know the real Jesus like Mary did, it makes sense.
I pray that you will seek to know the real Jesus through a commitment to daily prayer, without which spiritual growth is impossible. Ask Jesus in this Mass to reveal Himself to you. Then you too shall know Him, love Him, and pour yourself out like Mary the sister of Lazarus did, and then fragrance of the wonderful life will fill the house for all.