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Monday of Holy Week

April 2, 2007

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  He had withdrawn into Ephraim (John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 (for the sake of comparison, a
box of butter is a pound–that’s a lot of ointment!).

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 knew.  He knew this man was robbing Him!  He knew 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.

May God bless your Lenten deliverance

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