Contemplative Prayer with John’s Gospel

Mary anoints Jesus
Mary of Bethany
by Yvette Rock

This contemplative exercise can be done with any Gospel story.
You will need a little time, a quiet space for prayer, and your imagination.

An introduction to John 12:1-8

If you are reading through the Gospel of John, this chapter comes just after Jesus rescues Lazarus from his grave, and a week before Jesus himself dies on the cross.

The story takes place in Bethany – a village whose name probably means ‘House of the Poor’ – and in the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus.  In fact, this house may have been one of the places where Israel’s poor were received, fed, and cared for.

The people around the table with Jesus would have included women as well as men, children and babies, neighbors and even poor guests staying for a few days.

Now you are about to join them.

1.  Prepare yourself for prayer:

Sit comfortably.

Breathe deeply – and as you breathe in and out, remember that God is with you.

2.  Read the story aloud:

Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him.

Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.)

Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

3.   Picture the room where the story takes place:

Remember that God was there, and that God is here with you now.

Ask God’s Spirit to speak to you through the story.

4.  Imagine that you are at the table with Jesus:

Identify with someone in the story.

It might be someone – mentioned or not (remember, there were women, children and others not named in the story).

It might be something – the table, the ointment Mary poured over Jesus’ feet, the money Judas carried in his purse.

Now open your senses.

What do you see?
What do you hear?
What do you feel?
What do you taste?
What do you smell?
What does your inner sense tell you?

Remain there at the table: what have you experienced?

5.  Respond in prayer

Tell God your feelings… your needs…your questions…your insights…. your hopes…

God has heard you….  Rest in God.

A Musical Response to this Gospel story

Sydney Porter’s faith, imagination, and musical talent led him to create ‘Said Judas to Mary’, a dialogue between Judas, Mary of Bethany, and Jesus:


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