A guide from Patrick Fitzgerald-Lombard O.Carm
Following Palm Sunday, We continue Holy Week with the final stage of the story of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, Jn 12,1-11. This began with Jesus raising Lazarus to life which was read on the 5th Sunday. The consequences of raising Lazarus were then read on Saturday, Jn 11,45-56, with the Jewish leaders plotting to kill Jesus. The plotting continues at the end of today's Gospel but the core of the reading is the anointing of Jesus' feet by Mary.
It is important to note that all the Gospels stress that Jesus taken down from the cross was really dead and then buried. Jesus had to truly die so that he would rise again. As we journey through Holy Week, we are doing so with this in mind.
With regards to Mary's action, it depends on your view of Mary. Jesus commends her for preparing him for his burial and that is what is generally praised. The house full of fragrance is symbolic of her love.
On the other hand, such a generous anointing, just as Nicodemus will provide a generous anointing after Jesus' death (Jn 19,39), does not seem to me much sign of a believing in the resurrection. It is Martha who said "Yes, Lord I believe" (Jn 11,27). Mary reproaches Jesus for allowing her brother to die (Jn 11,32).
Perhaps after the resurrection, Mary was able to adjust her love of Jesus to the new circumstances, that he is now her risen Lord. Mary Magdalene has to learn this in the garden (Jn 20,16). That makes an interesting link because the west has traditionally taken Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene to be the same person.
Looking through chapter 11 and then on to this episode, we need to ponder on the characters of the two sisters and note how they express their love and commitment to Jesus.
Tuesday and Wednesday this week reflect upon the theme of betrayal. Today, we are at the Last Supper as told by John, Jn 13,21-33.36-38. Jesus has just shown his love for his disciples by the menial task of washing their feet. Now we hear of two responses, that of Simon Peter and that of Judas. What is extraordinary about this Gospel is the omission of verses 34 and 35 where Jesus announces his announces his command to his disciples to love one another "just as I have loved you".
By this stage, Judas had already gone out. Jesus with the piece of bread had indicated his betrayer and Satan in verse 27 entered the heart of Judas. This is followed by the chilling words "And it was night"
Jesus in verses 31-35 then speaks of his glorification, a paradoxical glorification because it will mean following the way of suffering. "When I am lifted up, I will draw all to myself" as Jesus has said several times previously in the Gospel. In is in that context of glorification that Jesus announces his commandment of love, verses 34 and 35. It is a love to be shown in times of hardship and suffering, as Christians have done down through the centuries.
Peter then intervenes with his insistence that he will lay down his life for Jesus, verse 37. Jesus issues the commandment to love, Peter promptly shows the human shortcomings and limits of that love. Jesus tells Peter that he will deny him three times.
How that unfolds will be evident as the story unfolds, in chapter 18 and then in chapter 21.
The contrast between the betrayal of Judas and the denials of Peter are themes we can always ponder as they are reflected in our lives. Peter we know will be reconciled and that path will always be open to us. The "just as I have loved you" of Jesus is always present in our lives.
As for Judas, we will hear more tomorrow.
Today is traditionally known as Spy Wednesday as the Gospel switches to Matthew and the betrayal of Judas. None of the Gospels have a good word to say about Judas, not surprisingly. Betrayal is so common among humans and yet so damaging, the opposite indeed to love. Only on Monday we heard of John's Gospel saying Judas was a thief, taking money from the common fund.
This year we have already heard this Gospel because on Sunday it formed the opening scene when the Passion of Jesus according to Matthew was read. We have therefore heard the story, Judas' betrayal leading to his remorse and hanging. The harsh words of Jesus at the end of today's Gospel thereby find their dreadful fulfillment.
Today is therefore is a day for us to reflect upon the whole story of Judas as told in Matthew's Gospel. It is indeed a human tragedy, it is also though an all too common human tragedy. Judas's was rejected by the chief priests as so many have found themselves rejected by those from whom they have sought help. The path to despair and suicide is followed all too easily.
We have undoubtedly have to be realistic about that, but realistic with the awareness that with the help and love of others God's love is always a way forward. Perhaps too we can remember our own failures as helpers and remember always our own need for God's love.
Finally, I came upon this: "Holy Week is the most tragic celebration of human freedom in his deepest mystery: in the free and irrevocabile "no" of Judas and in the free and irrevocable "yes" of Christ to the will of his Father."