Monday of Holy Week | Gospel Reflection
Today’s Gospel reading tells the story of Mary anointing the feet of Jesus with oil just days before the Passion. In this passage, we see Jesus among some of his closest followers and the different responses those followers have to his presence. Lazarus, having received the gift of life, sits lovingly with Jesus; Martha serves; Mary anoints Jesus in unspoken anticipation of his death; and Judas laments the fact that the very goodness of this scene prevents his sinfulness. Just like those present in this incredible passage, we also have several choices for how we can respond to Jesus’ presence in our lives.
Perhaps the most striking part of this passage is when Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with an entire liter of expensive oil and then dries his feet with her hair. Mary recognizes that Jesus is the person on whom she wants to pour out her treasure and her very self, and that now is the time to do it. When Jesus is before her, she holds nothing back, no matter how foolish she might appear to other people.
Judas, on the other hand, is thinking in terms of his own desires rather than of God’s Kingdom. According to what John tells us in the Gospel, Judas condemns Mary’s action because it robs him of the opportunity to sell the costly oil and keep the money for himself. But what if Judas really had wanted to sell the oil in order to give the money to the poor? Still, this would not be appropriate. To sell the oil would be to imply that there was some greater purpose for it than to anoint the Son of God who awaits his Passion. What Mary recognizes is that the precious oil must be used for the most sacred purpose, and that when she cooperates in this, she will grow in the holiness that allows her to perform actions like service to the poor. She uses the good that God has given her in the object of the oil to its highest potential—the praise of God. In response to her action, Jesus tells Judas, “Let her keep this for the day of my burial.” In the same way that Jesus knew that the Transfiguration would strengthen the disciples at the time of trial, he knew that the praise of his glory, symbolized in the anointing, would strengthen Mary.
Though they have quieter roles in this passage, Martha and Lazarus are worth emulating as well for their prayerful responses to Jesus. Martha and Lazarus are each called in a particular way for the situation at hand. Martha, for her part, answers the call to service and helps to create the environment in which this holy scene can take place. Lazarus simply reclines at table with Jesus. He accepts the grace given to him, and his action is one of conscious and deliberate receiving, knowing that he can never repay God for his gifts. Even though Martha and Lazarus might appear tangential in this passage, they are holy because they are obediently participating in God’s perfect plan.
As we journey closer and closer to Calvary with Jesus this week, may we all listen prayerfully to what the Lord may be calling us to do in any given situation, and answer that call with joyful hearts.