SCRIPTURE (John 12: 1-11)
Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany,
where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.
They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served,
while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him.
Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil
made from genuine aromatic nard
and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair;
the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.
Then Judas the Iscariot, one of his disciples,
and the one who would betray him, said,
"Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days' wages
and given to the poor?"
He said this not because he cared about the poor
but because he was a thief and held the money bag
and used to steal the contributions.
So Jesus said, "Leave her alone.
Let her keep this for the day of my burial.
You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me."
The large crowd of the Jews found out that he was there and came,
not only because of him, but also to see Lazarus,
whom he had raised from the dead.
And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too,
because many of the Jews were turning away
and believing in Jesus because of him.
Today’s gospel contains one of those difficult Jesus statements: “You will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.” Isn’t Judas right to call out Mary for this seeming waste of resources? Isn’t he even a little bit right to suggest using it to help the poor? What makes Jesus so quick to correct him? John’s gospel gives us an inside look at Judas’ intentions and a clue. Jesus knows what is in the heart and mind of Judas that compels him to voice his self-righteous indignation.
As a mother and a teacher, I’ve found myself in similar situations. A child that has been struggling to succeed, to behave, to understand, or to be understood will always feel particularly frustrated in the company of the seemingly talented, sweet, charismatic and wise sibling or classmate. They are surely thinking: “How is it that everything comes so easily to her?” Given the opportunity to expose her faults, violations or hypocrisies is too much of a temptation to let pass by. There is a time and place to call the other out, to blow a whistle on behavior that is harmful, hurtful and hateful. But, at the same time, no one likes a tattle tale. What’s the difference? Well, as a mother or a teacher, I’ve had to figure this out to know how to respond. It’s actually not that hard. Which makes Jesus’ words and reaction today not so hard to understand either.
The key, of course is love. Where, in this moment, is the love? Jesus, the master of love, never answers that question wrong. Mary, full of exuberant love, literally lets it pour out. Judas, finding it so hard to love, sees an opportunity to pull her down, create division and ill will. The situation has nothing to do with the poor. Without love in one’s heart, the mind will quickly look for a reason to hate, to pull the other down.
These Lenten reflections are written by friends of 12plus1, Inc. Discovery House, a service-based gap year experience for participants ages 18-20, will begin August 2018. Please share this information with an individuals who may want to participate or support this new ministry.
- Do I let my concerns about my failures and weaknesses limit my ability to appreciate the gifts and talents of others?
- How can I do a better job of appreciating ideas, actions and approaches that are different than my own?
- What can I do to control any inclinations to pull others down?
FAST from being on the lookout for hypocrisy and sin in others.
PRAY for the ability to discern the love in each moment.
GIVE others praise for sharing their gifts and talents in their own ways.
Mary Gentile is the Associate Director of the St. Clare Center for Catholic Life at Cardinal Stritch University. She taught high school theology for many years.