LENT 2020 – Day 41

Readings: Is 42: 1-7; Ps 26:; Jn 12: 1-11

The first reading is taken from the first of the four ‘servant songs’ or ‘Songs of the Suffering Servant’. It is not easy to identify the figure: is it the prophet himself, or historical Israel, or the ideal Israel? From the New Testament we know it is Jesus Christ. Its first verse is reminiscent of the voice of the Father at the Baptism of Jesus and the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. The seventh verse takes us to the Gospel passage in Luke, chapter 4: 18. In this Jesus says that the Father has sent Him to proclaim liberty to captives, sight to the blind, and to let the oppressed go free.

Only a psalm can cap all those wonders, a psalm that is at once a song of praise and thanksgiving: “The Lord is my light and my help… the Lord is the stronghold of my life.” There is therefore nothing to fear; only in Him we should hope. And we continue to see wonders in the countdown to the Lord’s appointed hour on earth. They witness to the Lord’s goodness throughout the week.

The day following the spectacle that was Palm Sunday in Jerusalem, Our Lord stayed in Bethany. He is said to have spent the night at the home of Lazarus. The family probably hosted Him and His disciples through the week. A great multitude of Jews visited Him there, also eager to know the man whom Jesus had raised from the dead.

Those were indeed live-giving encounters. Another happened when Lazarus’ sister Mary proved herself an exceptional hostess to a divine guest. While her sister Martha took care of the daily chores, Mary fell at the feet of Jesus. She took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed His feet, which she then wiped with her hair.

Did she exceed her role as hostess? Well, nothing is too much for the Lord. She did something that no Jewish woman would dare do: she loosed her hair before Her Lord, thus expressing love and dedication. An eye-opener to all of us who fear to be different, especially when it comes to Godly things…. Aren’t we worried about what others will say and think of us?

But look who took objection to Mary’s magnanimity: none other than Judas Iscariot. The miserable soul that was to sell Our Lord wanted to first sell the ointment, ostensibly to gather money for the poor! Well, the evangelist is very clear: “This he [Judas] said, not that he cared for the poor but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it.” The fact that Jesus despite knowing his base instincts accepted him as a disciple goes to show His concern for the well-being of his soul than for that of the common purse.

Fact is, “he who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much.” (Lk 16: 10) This fits Judas Iscariot like a glove. And that’s why Jesus soon hints at His death, in which Judas would soon have a dishonourably decisive role to play. “Let her alone,” says He, “let her keep it for the day of my burial.” And He adds: “The poor you will always have with you, but you do not always have me.” Yes, very often the poor are only a ruse; it’s usually ourselves that we are concerned about.

Sometimes don’t we seem greatly concerned about our little possessions and little concerned about our greatest possession in Heaven? Don’t we fall at the feet of our earthly masters but are only too proud to pray to the Lord? Whereas we set our eyes on the temporal, we let the eternal surprise us only at the time our death! Instead, like Mary of Bethany, let’s set our hearts not on saving the ointment; with love and gratitude, let’s spend everything on the Lord and save our soul.