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Monday of Holy Week

April 10, 2006

Blessed Monday!

Readings:
Isaiah 42:1-7 (the Messiah comes to rescue, not destroy)
Psalm 27:1-14 “The Lord is my light and my salvation”
+John 12:1-11 (Mary anoints Jesus’ feet)

No one has to approach Jesus with a sign saying, “the end is near”. He knows. No longer is He saying, “My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4), but rather, “the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12:20). He has begun the last week of His earthly life. He knows He only has a week left in which to fulfill His mission; in which to bring forth justice to the nations, to restore sight to the blind and to set captives free (Isaiah 42: 1, 7). He will accomplish this mission in its ultimate perfection from the throne of the cross, where even the blind religious leaders “will look upon Him whom they have pierced” (see Zechariah 12:10, John 9:41, Matthew 27:41); where a condemned criminal will rejoice in the promise of deliverance: “today you will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:40-43); where He would “reconcile everything in His person, both on earth and in the Heavens, making peace through the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:20).

In the meantime, although the cross was the culmination of Jesus’ ministry of redemption, it doesn’t stand alone. Every moment of Jesus’ life, especially of these last precious days, was filled with redemption, with that perfect fulfillment of God’s sacred order that would fill even the most ordinary activities with eternal significance. He’s not scrambling to heal all the remaining sick of Israel, to concoct a miracle so amazing that everyone will have to believe Him, or to force an end to all earthly conflict. He’s accepting His friends’ invitation to a banquet, such as were commonly held on this day when the Jews collected the lambs and all the other necessary supplies for Passover (see the notes for John 12:1 in the Haydock Bible). He’s living as He always has, in perfect accord with His Father’s plan for the moment.

Jesus hasn’t seen these friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus, since He raised Lazarus from the dead. He had withdrawn into Ephraim (John 11:54) after that miracle because the Jewish leaders wanted to kill Him for it & the time had not yet been ripe for His sacrifice. Now His hour has come. He returns and they welcome Him eagerly, each giving Him their best: Martha in fulfilling the many behind-the-scenes details of hospitality, Lazarus in joining Him at table and Mary in performing the customary anointing of the guest with oil (see Psalm 23:5, Luke 7:46). In the extravagance born of loving gratitude, she pours out on His feet an entire pound of costly aromatic nard.

Judas protests. “Why was not this perfume sold? It could have brought three hundred silver pieces, and the money have been given to the poor” (John 12:5). Poor Judas, that is. Yes, money was given to the poor from the common purse of Jesus’ company of disciples (see John 13:29), but that wasn’t Judas’ real motivation. St. John tells us that Judas, the treasurer of the little company, helped himself to the money that had been entrusted to him (John 12:6). He had betrayed his position of trust long before he went to the religious leaders to hand Jesus over.

Jesus knows. He knows this man was robbing Him! He knows this man has already betrayed His trust and will soon be responsible for His death; this man whom He had loved and chosen, who ate and drank at His table, who had been entrusted with a preaching mission and with the financial security of the entire group. Jesus knows how Judas is even now hurting Him. At the same time, and even more deeply, Jesus sees how Judas is hurting his own soul. Poor Judas, indeed. He might be rich in money, but his soul is destitute. His spirit is dead. “What profit would a man show if he were to gain the whole world and destroy himself in the process?” (Matthew 16:26). Judas has thrown away the only life that really matters in exchange for a few coins that could never buy him a moments’ happiness. He’s blinded by greed; enslaved by sin. Jesus had come to set him free too, if only Judas will respond, if only he will do his part.

Even in the midst of this betrayal, Jesus has compassion on his fallen disciple. He will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoldering wick (see Isaiah 42:3). He does not expose Judas’ duplicity. He uses words that only Judas would understand as a call to repentance. “The poor you always have with you, but Me you will not always have” (John 12:8). It’s not money you need, Judas. It’s Me.

We too betray Jesus time and again, grasping for things that can never satisfy. We use our God-given positions of responsibility for our own benefit rather than for His. We may even excuse ourselves with religious motives. But how often are we really saying, “poor me”, not realizing how truly we speak? Poor me. I’ve been deprived of this or that material good, so I’m entitled to whatever will make me feel better.

“How pitiable they are, the poor people out in the world. They wear, over their shoulders, a mantle lined with thorns; they cannot make a move without being pierced. But true Christians have a mantle lined with soft fur.” –the Cure of Ars

God intervenes with such compassionate love. Yes, you are poor. You have crushed and bruised the glorious supernatural life I gave you in Baptism. None of the things you are seeking will restore that life to you. They will bruise it further. They will make you poorer. You need Me. But you have to let go of all these things that enslave you. I will not force you to love Me, to receive My Love. I will only beg with all the tenderness at My command, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you” (Matthew 11:28).

May we rid ourselves of the sins (and attachments to sin) that still enslave us so that we will be able to open our hearts and our lives to receive the spiritual riches Jesus offers us so compassionately in these last precious days of His earthly life.

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