“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”
— Simone Weil
12 Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2 There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 3 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. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” 6 (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.) 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8 You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”
This story highlights something that much of society does not seem to value.
Attention. Being attentive. Being present in the moment.
In an age of doom scrolling, a million streaming services, social media bombardment, and social disconnection, paying attention to one another isn’t often a high priority. I’m sure that you’ve noticed that many of us can be “with” people at a cafe, park, or sitting at a table. But we’re looking at our phones. An email here, a text message there. Another headline, tweet, or notification. Pretty soon the other humans with us are not the focus of our attention. Are we really even there? Good question.
So it really, really means something, doesn’t it? When someone really is present with you. When they sit with you in your pain, joy, or melancholy. When they listen. When they pay attention. It means something. We feel seen. We feel human. Attention is generosity.
In this story, Mary is the attentive one. She does what seems crazy to others. She uses an expensive ointment to wash Jesus’ feet. Not only was this a startling act, it was an intimate one. Judas Iscariot, of course, criticized her for such an action. Judas cared more about the money one could get from selling the perfume than he cared about being present in that moment. Jesus’ response: Leave her alone. Let her be.
Friends, I wonder what would happen if we valued attention more than money. I wonder how we would heal if we treasured the present moment as a gift to be recognized and lived. And I wonder just how much we could find greater connection if we decided to be more generous with our attention.