During this sacred time of Holy Week, we may be tempted to fall into a pattern of ‘knowing’ the stories and ritual, and thus perhaps move on automatic pilot through the week since we as Christians have prayerfully reflected on these events throughout our lives.
As I read through today’s scriptures, initially I found myself feeling very familiar with the passages. However, I was again caught off guard by Jesus’ response to Judas’ challenge regarding the better use of money for the poor that oils might bring, rather than the use of oils by Mary to anoint Jesus’ feet: “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 scriptures are written to tell the good news of Jesus’ life…to help us know and remember who and what Jesus was and the message of God’s unconditional love for us. But why this particular passage? It doesn’t seem to ‘fit’ the Jesus of compassion…in word and in action throughout his life. And why include it in the Monday Holy Week scriptures? Certainly the first reading from Isaiah is more in keeping with my understanding of Jesus as God’s servant and covenant with us.
(Part of my discomfort stems from the sometimes misuse of Jesus’ response taken out of context to lessen our need to feel guilty about those who live in poverty. However, Jesus’ audience KNEW Hebrew scriptures and their responsibility to care for the poor: “There will always be poor people in the land; therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and sisters and toward the poor and needy in your land.” Deut. 15:11)
As I prayed, reflected and read other’s theological insights on today’s scripture, I began to ‘see’ this passage in a new light.
Instead of getting caught by the ‘you always have the poor with you’, I reflected on Mary’s anointing of Jesus. This was a time when many people began to believe in Jesus’ message following the raising of Lazarus; but this was also the time when there was a growing movement against Jesus among the leaders. Jesus and Mary seem to have realized the dangers: “Let her keep this for the day of my burial…you will not always have me (with you)”.
Today’s passage is preparing us for Jesus death!
How are we entering this sacred time? And where and how will we continue to live the ‘Jesus’ story in our lives this week and into the next weeks and months?
As our Lenten journey moves into the sacred Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, I pray that I/we may be open to the stories (scriptures) and rituals with new eyes and ears. Will we allow God’s spirit and movement in us and through us so that the person of Jesus will be witnessed in our actions and words… to ‘be’ God’s presence in our midst?
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