Daily Reading for March 21 • The Fifth Sunday in Lent
Let us look into the mystery this incident imported. Whatever soul among you wishes to be truly faithful, anoint the feet of the Lord with precious ointment like Mary did. That ointment was righteousness, and therefore it was [exactly] a pound weight: but it was ointment of pure nard, very precious. From his calling it “pistici” we ought to infer that there was some locality from which it derived its preciousness; but this does not exhaust its meaning, and it harmonizes well with a sacramental symbol. The root of the word in the Greek [pistis] is by us called “faith.” You were seeking to work righteousness: “The just shall live by faith.” Anoint the feet of Jesus: follow the Lord’s footsteps by living a good life. Wipe them with your hair: what you have in excess, give to the poor, and then you have wiped the feet of the Lord. For the hair seems to be the superfluous part of the body. You have something to spare of your abundance: it is superfluous to you but necessary for the feet of the Lord. Perhaps on this earth the Lord’s feet are still in need. For of whom but of his members is he yet to say in the end, “Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of mine, you did it unto me”? You spent what was superfluous for yourselves, but you have done what was grateful to my feet.
From Tractates on the Gospel of John by Augustine of Hippo, quoted in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament IVb, John 11-21, edited by Joel C. Elowsky (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2007).