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Track the story with your nose

by davesandel on March 30th, 2021

Tuesday, March 30, 2021                   (today’s lectionary)

Track the story with your nose

Here me and listen. The Lord called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name. He concealed me in the shadow of his arm, in his quiver he hid me. Now the Lord has spoken who formed me, that Jacob may be brought back to him. I am made glorious in the sight of the Lord, and my God is now my strength! I will make you a light to the nations, and my salvation will reach to the ends of the earth.

Sometimes I listen to the English Jesuit broadcast “Pray As You Go,” 12 or so minutes of meditative music, lectionary reading, and a question or two to ponder. I listened yesterday, and realized along with my Jesuit guide that when Mary washed Jesus’ feet with perfume, it was nearly the last time anyone alive touched Jesus’ feet.

Then my guide asked me to imagine Mary’s weeping, to see her standing beneath her crucified friend, looking at the feet of Jesus nailed straight through with thick, crude spikes, broken and covered with bloody dirt. Of course she remembered the pound of nard which she had lavished on Jesus’ feet, just a few days before.

Finally, my guide asked me to listen to the entire passage again, but this time focusing on how things smelled. The dinner, roasted meat and warm wine, wonderful scents filling the air, making our mouths water, and then the perfume, overwhelming every cubic inch of space within the house.

Reviewing today’s scriptures, I think too of the smells of birth, in Isaiah’s nose as he wrote the words God gave him, the smells of underarms, the inside of a leather quiver. What indeed does glory smell like, Lord?

Jesus, reclining at dinner, was deeply troubled. “One of you will betray me,” he said. Who could he mean? One of us? And the disciple whom Jesus loved leaned back against the chest of Jesus and asked, “Master, who is it?” Jesus answered. After Judas took the wine-soaked morsel of bread, Satan entered him. Judas left at once. And it was night. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.

So now not only glory, but the scents of fear and betrayal as well. The smell of death, waiting just around the corner for Jesus. “Wine-soaked morsel of bread …” I drank a glass of wine just now with dinner, and as I dipped my sourdough bread in the red wine, those smells filled the air around me. What of the 11 remaining disciples in their confusion? What did they smell? And how does betrayal smell to Jesus?

Peter, will you really lay down your life for me? Oh no, Peter, you will not. Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.

Peter’s loyalty to Jesus would be overwhelmed by his fear. Jesus smells this before it happens … and then as the story continues into courtyards and chicken coops, into the darkest night and finally the dawn, Peter reeks with his inability to stop saying, “No! I do not know the man.” What do we smell like when we do the same? What do I smell like to others, what do I smell like to God?

But more importantly, I think … what does God smell like to me?

I take refuge in you, my Lord, and you never let me be put to shame. You are my rock and my fortress, rescue me, O God, from the hand of the wicked. On you I have depended from my birth, from my mother’s womb. I proclaim with my mouth your justice, your salvation, and all your wonderful deeds.

(Isaiah 49, Psalm 71, John 13)


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