Monday of Holy Week, March 29
Isaiah 42:1-7 / John 12:1-11
William Barclay says of Judas' reaction to Mary's anointing of the feet of Jesus: "Judas had just seen an action of surpassing loveliness; and he called it extravagant waste. He was an embittered man who took an embittered view of things." Judas' reaction illustrates an important fact: "We see things not as they are, but as we are." H. M. Tomlinson
If we are prejudiced against a person, that person can do nothing right in our eyes. If we are prejudiced in favour of a person, that person can do nothing wrong in our eyes. Judas was prejudiced against Mary.
To what extent do we tend to let our feelings and prejudices dictate our attitude and our actions toward people? "Mud thrown is ground lost." Alta G. Shaw
Holy Week is for us the time when we meditate on the saving death of our Lord. The days of his suffering are approaching. The first reading gives us the first of the famous songs about the Servant of Yahweh. The liturgy of the Holy Week characterizes Jesus as the Servant of Yahweh. This first song speaks perhaps directly about the attitude and role of God’s people, but we find these exemplified fully in Jesus, the perfect servant of God and of people. He is shown here to us as God’s servant who came to serve the poor and the suffering by bringing them justice and freedom, and light in darkness to all; he will be the covenant of us, the people, by uniting us with God and one another. All this he did for us by his saving death.
Mary's anointing of Jesus was indeed an extravagance. Judas, a shrewd calculator of monetary worth, estimated that the perfume could have been sold for three hundred pieces of silver (perhaps ten month's wages, and incidentally ten times more than Jesus was worth in his eyes). Jesus saw in Mary's impetuous act a beautiful sign of love (cf. Mk 14, 6). Love does not always correspond with cold logic, and there is room in religion for deeds which spring more from the heart than from the intellect. It is true that the perfume could have been sold for the benefit of the poor, but Jesus, who took second place to no one in his concern for the poor, graciously accepted Mary's extravagance.
The protest of Judas was hypocritical, made from no concern for the poor, since his hope was to have pocketed the price of the perfume for himself. Today in the Church there has been a healthy renewal of concern for the poor, and in many respects we all need such a renewal. And yet some, though with a sincerity never felt by Judas, seem to be making of religion nothing but the service of the poor. No excuse should be manufactured for hoarded or abused wealth on the part of anyone in the Church; however, there is much more to religion than the alleviation of poverty, important though it be. Mary had learned that Jesus is the resurrection and the life, and her act was one of loving recognition. The wish to spend the money on the poor involved a lack of recognition of the real nature of Jesus as the Son of God. There must always be a time and a place for service of the poor, but there must also be a time and a place for the due worship of the person of the Son of God.
Lord our God, you have called your people to be the servant of one another in the cause of justice and mercy. You showed us in Jesus, your Son, what it means to serve and how much this may cost us. Fill us with the Spirit of Jesus, that we too may not break those who are weak nor repel those groping in the dark. Let him teach us to serve and to love with compassion for the helpless and respect for the least and the poorest, together with Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen