Monday, 26 March 2018

Monday of Holy Week

Readings: Isaiah 42:1-7; Ps 26; John 12:1-11

The first half of Holy Week offers us a three part liturgy of the Word. Each day we read one of Isaiah's 'Songs of the Servant' (the fourth is read at the Good Friday liturgy). The gospel readings these days are centred on Judas and his betrayal, comparing his treatment of Jesus with that of others in their circle, Mary of Bethany (Monday), Peter (Tuesday), and the Eleven (Wednesday). In three scenes, then, this first act of Holy Week presents us with a deepening sense of tragedy, through acts of love, disappointment, doubt, and betrayal.

Mary is on the side of light. She understands - so Jesus says - his way to glory, the kind of Messiah/Servant he is to be. She is ready at least to some extent for the hour of his glorious kingship on the Cross. Judas is increasingly under the power of darkness, failing to understand, and losing a sense of loving Jesus.

Mary's perfume fills the whole house. This seems to be John's way of saying 'wherever the gospel is preached, what she has done will be told in memory of her'. The perfume of her act will accompany the preaching of the gospel everywhere.

The most striking characteristic of her act is its extravagance: it is exaggerated, unnecessary, wasteful (as Judas, with some justice, indicates). But it anticipates the extravagance we will witness in the second half of Holy Week, the extravagance of God's love poured out in the sacrifice of Christ. Mary's extravagant love of Jesus continues to strengthen the faith of believers, for it helps us to appreciate the extravagant love that is the world's salvation.

The requirements of justice are extravagant, as Mary understands. There are many references to justice in the readings today. Sometimes we think of it as cold and blind, strict and merciless. But the justice of which Jesus is the sun is a justice that has reached the heart. It is a matter of words and actions originating in a heart that loves and is merciful. Mary shows her heart today as Jesus' heart will be shown on Friday, the heart of our 'most human God'. He has not forgotten the poor but is remembering them in each step of his via dolorosa. He becomes the poorest one of all, experiencing the most radical poverty of humankind, so that we might become rich from him, anointed with his endless mercy, his constant forgiveness, his everlasting love.

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