25 March. Monday in Holy Week
Isa 42:1ff. My servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, the One in whom my soul delights.
Jn 12:1ff. Mary of Bethany shows her love, pouring ointment on Jesus’ feet.
First Reading: Isaiah 42:1-7
Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. he will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. he will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching.
Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it: I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.
Gospel: John 12:1-11
Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume 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 kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”
When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.
Short-termism versus true discernment
The three gospel texts leading up to Holy Thursday deal with Judas Iscariot and his path to damnation. In today’s prophecy, Isaiah speaks in God’s name about “My chosen one with whom I am pleased.” How much our Blessed Lord would have wanted to say this about his chosen apostle, Judas, but no matter what Jesus wanted for him, Judas had his eyes on something definite and tangible (worldly profit? status with the well-off and the well-placed?) rather than on the riches in heaven promised by Jesus. He had his priorities confused when he protested over the waste of the expensive perfume that Mary used to anoint our Lord’s feet. To Jesus, it was a beautiful gesture of love; to Judas, it was a waste of money, mere sentiment. He even protests that it should have been sold, and the money given to the poor. Judas’ real intentions are revealed in the next sentence when John says curtly, “he said this, not because he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and holding the purse, used to take what was put in it.”
After admonishing Judas to leave the woman alone, Jesus says, “For the poor you have always with you, but you do not always have me.” The greatest treasure of all is there among them in the flesh, in the person of the Son of God, who predicts his own burial and the Magdalene’s role by indicating beforehand that she should keep the rest of the ointment to anoint his body, after his forthcoming passion and death.