Monday, March 21, 2016

Reflection: John 12:1-11

Monday of Holy Week - John 12:1-11

Today, Mary of Bethany ministers to Jesus.  The Gospel begins as Jesus arrives in Bethany. He has come to visit with Lazarus, Martha and Mary.  They had been good friends for years. They gathered around the table to catch up with Jesus.  Martha spent most of the day preparing a special meal for Jesus.

While they were gathered at the table, Mary approached Jesus with a container of expensive perfumed oil. She knelt at Jesus’ feet and opened the container of oil.  She cleansed his feet and then them  with the exotic and expensive oil. This is not a custom that we have today. However, in Jesus’ time, when a guest arrived at someone’s home, their feet were grimy from traveling the dirt roads.  Sandals did not provide any protection from the dust and dirt. Thus, when a guest arrived, a servant would wash the feet of the guest.  This washing was cleansing and refreshing, and it also helped keep the house clean.

In this story, though, Mary washes Jesus’ feet. Custom dictated that Mary should not be washing Jesus’ feet because this was a task for the slaves and servants, not for a member of the family. Mary not only washed Jesus’ feet, she also had the audacity to dry his feet with her hair.  What an intimate act! Many of the guests were shocked. What was Mary thinking? Her action was completely inappropriate in their eyes. However, no one spoke a word.

After a few moments, Judas Iscariot finally asked why this expensive oil had not been sold and the money given to the poor.  Judas sounded like a champion of the poor; however, he had hoped to sell the oil and then pocket the money himself.  Judas was in charge of the money bag. Jesus knew that Judas was upset about the spending of the money, which he had planned to use to line his own pockets. Judas was not concerned for the needs of the poor. He only was concerned for himself.

Jesus defended Mary and her compassionate, loving action.  Jesus knew that the coming days would be horrific for him.  By washing his feet and anointing them, Mary had given him a great gift of love and care. Jesus confronted Judas and his hypocrisy.  He emphatically told Judas to leave Mary alone. She was to keep the oil for the day of Jesus’ burial.

Jesus knew Judas’ heart had changed, yet Jesus still loved Judas.   Jesus was deeply saddened that Judas was no longer committed to Jesus and to the people of God.  Judas was committed only to himself. What a loss for Jesus and for Judas.  Jesus had lost a loved one and a follower but Judas had betrayed himself and his best friend!  And for what: a bag of coins?

Do we have a “Judas” in our lives: someone who had hurt or betrayed us? I assume most of us do. The question is:  will we strive to follow in Jesus’ footsteps?  Are we open to forgiving the person who hurt or betrayed us?  If we cannot answer yes, are we willing to ask for the desire to forgive the other person? Jesus will grace us with the ability to forgive if we open our hearts to him. All we have to do is ask!

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