Intentions: That all people will turn away from sin, living instead with compassion and justice, and embracing God’s gifts of faith, hope, and love.
Today’s Gospel | John 12:1-11
Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served, while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him. Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. Then Judas the Iscariot, one of his disciples, and the one who would betray him, said, “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?” He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions. So Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”
The large crowd of the Jews found out that he was there and came, not only because of him, but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too, because many of the Jews were turning away and believing in Jesus because of him.
A Lenten Reflection
In Willa Cather’s novel, Death Comes for the Archbishop, Bishop Jean Latour and Father Joseph Valliant are discussing another priest’s story of the miraculous appearances and image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. As Father Valliant extols the effect on the faithful of such an event, Bishop Latour quietly reflects, “The Miracles of the Church seem to me not to rest so much upon faces or voices or healing power coming suddenly near to us from afar off, but upon our perceptions being made finer, so that for a moment our eyes can see and our ears can hear what is there about us always.”
Today’s Gospel reading finds Jesus chiding Judas for his criticism of Mary for anointing Jesus’ feet. What Jesus says to Judas is traditionally interpreted as a premonition of his own passion and death. However, his words should also be understood as a call to attentiveness. The entire narrative presents a juxtaposition of people who either are or are not paying attention to who and what is in their midst. While Mary gives herself to the moment in complete trust, Judas closes himself to the moment out of impatience and short-sightedness. Judas is missing the now while looking for something to satisfy his desires and delusions. Meanwhile, because Mary’s senses and heart are open and humble, they are filled with the gift of the overwhelming presence of God.
The lesson here is that the best place to start when seeking to serve God is simple attention to God. If we are so anxious to do good that we overlook God’s graciousness and rush off to create our own, then our work is no longer connected to his. It will not be grounded in God, but in ourselves. As Holy Week begins, we are invited to reflect on how we can be more fully awake to God’s presence and activity in our lives. Through our prayer, fasting, and service of others, we can pay greater attention to God so that “our eyes can see and our ears can hear what is there about us always.”
Eternal Father, you sent to us your son that we might learn how to live without duplicity. In this Holy Week, teach us to live without wanting to control, to do for others without seeking to possess them, loving friend and enemy alike without limits or conditions. May we follow Jesus’ call to be poor in spirit, letting the knowledge that we are trying to do your will be our peace and our nourishment. Help us to turn away from our sinfulness and return ourselves to you, always aware of your presence and always obedient to your will. We ask this of you who lives and reigns with your Son and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.