DAILY READINGS AND REFLECTION
Monday of Holy Week – 6 April 2020
Isaiah 42:1-7 – Here is my chosen one in whom my soul delights
HERE is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom my soul delights.
I have endowed him with my spirit that he may bring true justice to the nations.
He does not cry out or shout aloud, or make his voice heard in the streets. He does not break the crushed reed, nor quench the wavering flame.
Faithfully he brings true justice; he will neither waver, nor be crushed until true justice is established on earth, for the islands are awaiting his law.
Thus says God, the Lord, he who created the heavens and spread them out, who gave shape to the earth and what comes from it, who gave breath to its people and life to the creatures that move in it:
‘I, the Lord, have called you to serve the cause of right; I have taken you by the hand and formed you; I have appointed you as covenant of the people and light of the nations,
‘To open the eyes of the blind, to free captives from prison, and those who live in darkness from the dungeon.’
John 12:1-11 – ‘She had to keep this scent for the day of my burial’
SIX days before the Passover, Jesus went to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom he had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there; Martha waited on them and Lazarus was among those at table.
Mary brought in a pound of very costly ointment, pure nard, and with it anointed the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair; the house was full of the scent of the ointment.
Then Judas Iscariot – one of his disciples, the man who was to betray him – said, ‘Why wasn’t this ointment 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 was in charge of the common fund and used to help himself to the contributions.
So Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone; she had to keep this scent for the day of my burial. You have the poor with you always, you will not always have me.’
Meanwhile a large number of Jews heard that he was there and came not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead. Then the chief priests decided to kill Lazarus as well, since it was on his account that many of the Jews were leaving them and believing in Jesus.
AND so, we have entered into the Week that is Holy. What is “Week”, what is “Holy”?
A day is the time the earth completes one full rotation. The week is the seven-day amount of time. The week has nothing to do with the movement of the moon (month) or the sun (year). It is uniquely a religious institution of Judaism (religion of the Jews), used from at least by the 6th century before Christ.
Israel enforced the law of the Sabbath, to set aside a day in every seven to be devoted to God the Creator in prayer, to God the Liberator in freedom from servile work. This once-in-seven-day punctuation was considered a divinely instituted frequency needed to form a basic human habit to live for God throughout the week, throughout time on earth, and not to be caught up in worldly needs and pursuits.
For the Jews, Sabbath (Saturday) ends the week; for Christians, Sunday, the Day of the Lord, initiates it. In this sense, the Week, founded and instituted on God, is holy.
People understand “Holy” in many ways. There is, however, one that is fundamental: To be holy is to be like God, whose thoughts and ways are not ours as fallen creatures. So, God is holy because He is not like us. We become holy when we are like God, and stop thinking and behaving like fallen creatures. And God is Love, Love made visible on the Cross.
This Week is Holy because Christ the Holy One of God is loving us in an unearthly and Godly way – His Suffering and Death. He died to make us a bit less unholy.
The Anointing at Bethany in today’s gospel powerfully shows Jesus as the Holy One of God. Last week we saw Jesus was radically humble. All the glory of His holiness and love was not for His own but conferred on Him by the Father. Today, through Mary’s intimate anointing of Jesus with a costly ointment, and Judas’ objection to it, we learn a lesson on God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness.
So wasteful! The two hundred denarii should have been given to the poor! One denarius is about a day’s wage. That’s a lot. St. John however immediately warns us on this unholy remark: “he (Judas) said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he was in charge of the common fund and used to help himself to the contributions”.
In point of truth, Judas was the man who would sell the whole of the anointed Jesus, for much more, 30 pieces of silver, not for the poor, but for himself and for his own suicide.
We have been urged to give alms and do charity during Lent. Charity is love to others made concrete. But are we holy and loving like God when we give? You and I know.
It’s rare that we give with utter purity of heart only to honour God or the poor, our left hand not knowing what the right is doing. Fallen creatures, we crave for attention in more subtle and hidden ways than just asking for photos to be taken and donors’ names published (for the “records” we say). Often, we give, secretly scheming to be known as caring, or more caring (than our competitors), precisely because we ourselves are deprived of care, hungry for human approval. We make use of the poor in our hunger and greed for our own earthly gain. Like Judas we are the “thief” … helping ourselves…”.
Just as Jesus is Love, He is Holiness. He was both (materially) poor, and the Lover/Champion of the poor. “Foxes have holes, the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Lk 9:58). Born in an animal shed, placed in a box for animal feed, raised up by a carpenter, with fishermen for friends, he was always poor. He was often going around hungry and thirsty, His followers picking and eating ears of corn even on a Sabbath…turning to a woman for a drink of water….
He lived poor, knew how it felt to be hungry, but He cared for and supported the poor, and died for the poor. He told His disciples to share the little they had (five loaves and two small fish) with 5,000 men locked down in a deserted place, and we know that was only a small indication of His total self-giving as Bread of Life, Food for sinners and for a safe journey Home.
He affirmed the poor, teaching His disciples true generosity in the Widow’s Mite, the parable of Poor Lazarus and the Rich Man… He proclaimed the actual poor as the first of those blessed in His Kingdom: “How happy are you who are poor: yours is the kingdom of God” (Lk 6:20) …
“… Christ … though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might be rich.” (2Cor 8:9).
In holy love, so contrary to the earthly, Christ died for POOR sinners deprived of all grace, deprived of life itself, materially rich or poor. Christ is the Source and Origin of holiness. If we are lovingly united with Him, our thoughts, our deeds, our charities will be less stained by our earthly, and unholy fallenness and sin. With Jesus the Holiness of God, we truly love.
Mary came to know Jesus the Holy One. She had welcomed Him into her house, sat before Him listening, and she was now at table with Lazarus her brother who had died. She treasured Jesus. Knowing the real danger to Jesus’ life in those dangerous days, Mary responded generously and intimately to Jesus.
She anointed His feet with a costly ointment, drying them up with her own hair to keep the scent of Jesus in her body. Jesus’ dead body would never be anointed before His unceremonious burial in the borrowed tomb. This was his last, alive or dead.
The scent of the nard-perfumed ointment, the scent of Mary’s love of the Holy One, filled the room. Will we receive Jesus intimately, anoint Him with the best we have, keep His scent with us and fill every room where people are, before we become poorer without Him?
Our answer matters if this Week is to be Holy.
Lord Jesus, Holy One of God, no man has ever loved like you.
You are indeed man and Holy God. I thank You for the gift of this Holy Week, Your Holy Week.
Like Mary in today’s gospel, may I learn to treasure You, keep Your sweet and holy scent until I shall see You Risen from the stench of death.
In Your Holy and Precious Name I pray. Amen.