Monday - Lent Time
1) Opening prayer
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.
2) Gospel Reading - John 12, 1-11
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
filled with the scent of the ointment.
Then Judas Iscariot -- one of his
disciples, the man who was to betray him-said, 'Why was this ointment not 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 contents. So Jesus said, 'Leave her alone; let
her keep it 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.
We have entered into Holy Week, the week of the Passover of Jesus, of
his passing from this world to the Father (Jn 13, 1). Liturgy today places
before us the beginning of chapter 12 of the Gospel of John, which serves as a
link between the Book of the Signs (cc 1-11) and the Book of the Glorification
(cc 13-21). At the end of the “Book of Signs” there appears, very clearly the tension
between Jesus and the religious authority of the time (Jn 10, 19-21.39) and the
danger which Jesus was facing. Several times they had tried to kill him (Jn 10,
31; 11, 8. 53; 12, 10). So much it was like this that Jesus was obliged to lead
a clandestine life, because he could be arrested at any moment (Jn 10, 40; 11,
John 12, 1-2: Jesus persecuted by the Jews, goes to Bethany. Six days
before the Passover, Jesus went to Bethany to the house of his friends Martha
and Mary and of Lazarus. Bethany means, House of Poverty. The police was
looking for him (Jn 11, 57). They wanted to kill him (Jn 11, 50). But even now
that the police was looking for Jesus, Mary, Martha and Lazarus received him in
their house and offered him something to eat. Because love overcomes fear.
John 12, 3: Mary anoints Jesus. During the meal, Mary anoints the feet
of Jesus with a pound of perfume of pure spikenard (cf. Lk 7, 36-50). It was a
very costly perfume, so very expensive that it cost three hundred denarii. Then
she dried his feet with her hair. The whole house was filled with the scent of
the ointment. Mary does not speak during this whole episode. She only acts. The
gesture filled with symbolism speaks for itself. In washing the feet, Mary
becomes a servant. Jesus will repeat the gesture at the Last Supper (Jn 13, 5).
John 12, 4-6: Reaction of Judas. Judas criticizes the gesture of Mary. He
thinks that it is a waste. In fact, three hundred denarii were the wages of
three hundred days! The wages of almost a whole year spent in one time alone!
Judas thinks that the money should have been given to the poor. The Evangelist
comments and says that Judas had no concern at all for the poor, but that he
was a thief. They had a common fund and he stole the money. A strong judgment
which condemns Judas. It does not condemn the concern for the poor, but the
hypocrisy which uses the poor for self promotion and to enrich oneself. Judas,
in his own egoistic interests, thought only about money. This is why he was not
aware of what Mary kept in her heart. Jesus reads in the heart and defends
John 12, 7-8: Jesus defends the woman, Judas thinks only of the waste and criticizes the woman. Jesus thinks of the gesture and defends
the woman: “Leave her alone; so that she can keep it for the day of my
burial!” And immediately Jesus says: “You have the poor with you always;
you will not always have me!” Which of the two lived closer to Jesus: Judas
or Mary? Judas, the disciple, lived together with Jesus for almost three years,
twenty-four hours a day. He was part of the group. Mary saw him once or twice a
year, on the occasion of some feast, when Jesus went to Jerusalem and visited
her in her house. But to live together with, not having any love does not help
us to know others. Rather it blinds people. Judas was blind. Many people live
together with Jesus and praise him even with many hymns, but do not truly know him
and do not reveal him (cf. Mt 7, 21). Two affirmations of Jesus merit a more
detailed comment: (a) “You have the poor with you always” and (b) let her keep
it for the day of my burial”.
(a) “You have the poor with you always “. Is it perhaps that
Jesus wants to say that we should not be concerned about the poor, given the
fact that there will always be poor? Or does he want to say that poverty is the
destiny imposed by God? How is this phrase to be understood? At that time,
persons knew the Old Testament by heart. It sufficed for Jesus to begin quoting
a phrase of the Old Testament and persons already knew the rest. The beginning
of the phrase said: “There will never cease to be poor people in the country”
(Dt 15, 11ª). The rest of the phrase which people already knew and which Jesus
wants to remind is the following: “And this is why I am giving you this
command: always be open handed with your brother, and with anyone in your
country who is in need and is poor!” (Dt 15, 11b). According to this Law, the
community should accept the poor and share its goods with them. But, Judas
instead of “opening his hand to help the poor” and to share his goods
with them, wanted to do charity with the money of others! He wanted to sell the
perfume of Mary for three hundred denarii and use it to help the poor. Jesus
quotes the Law of God which taught the contrary. Anyone who, like Judas,
carries out a campaign with the money of the sale of the goods of other does
not disturb or trouble. But, the one who, like Jesus, insists on the obligation
to accept the poor and to share with them one’s own goods, this one disturbs,
troubles and runs the risk of being condemned.
John 12, 9-11: The crowds and the authority. To be the friend of
Jesus could be dangerous.
Lazarus is in danger of death because of the new life received from Jesus. The
Jews had decided to kill him. Lazarus alive was a living proof that Jesus was
the Messiah. This is why the crowd was looking for him, because people wanted
to experience closely the living proof of the power of Jesus. A living
community runs the risk of its life because it is the living proof of the Good
News of God!
4) Personal questions
Mary was misinterpreted by Judas. Have you been misinterpreted sometimes?
What does this text of Mary teach us? What does the reaction of Judas say to
5) Concluding Prayer
is my light and my salvation,
should I fear?
is the fortress of my life,
should I dread? (Ps 27,1)