Scripture: Lectionary for April 2, Monday of Holy Week. #258: Isaiah 42:1-7. Psalm 27:220.127.116.11-14. John 12:1-11
Palm Sunday fades away but there is still a bit of joy and peace in the life of Jesus as we hear of him spending some time with his friends from nearby Bethany. Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus are hosting Jesus and some of his disciples. Judas will be present and complain about the generous action of Mary’s anointing the feet of Jesus. This is done with great love and generosity as well as offering a warmth of welcome to the honored guest, Jesus. Her action will be explained by Jesus in a special way.
The selection from II Isaiah is one of the Suffering Servant passages and we see that the Gospel writers have reread these passages about that prophetic figure in the light of Jesus’ life, his suffering, death, and resurrection. Isaiah is one of the most cited prophets in the New Testament. The words fit in well with this start of Holy Week and help us to both meditate on Jesus as the Suffering Servant as well as to learn of his mission among his people. It so happens that the Aramaic word for servant is the same word that can be used for a lamb. We recall how John the Baptist calls Jesus the Lamb of God. This fits in well with the Passover that Jesus will be celebrating in a special way with his intimate friends. He will be humble as a servant as he washes their feet and will be their Paschal Lamb led to be sacrificed on the Cross.
The Gospel gives us a beautiful peaceful event in the life of Jesus. He is relaxing and enjoying time with his dear friends, Mary and Martha, and Lazarus whom he has recently raised from the dead. This has given many of the persons who are following Jesus a strong belief in him. This is one of the seven signs of the Gospel that is called the Gospel of Signs, the Fourth Gospel or Gospel of John.
Judas notices that Mary’s action of anointing the feet of Jesus is extravagant and he remarks that the precious ointment could be sold and the money given to the poor. Jesus helps him to understand that the poor will always be here, but Jesus will not for he is going to the Father very soon. He, therefore, tells those at Bethany that Mary had done something special. “Leave her alone. Let her keep it against the day they prepare me for burial.” Then the Evangelist John remarks that many came to believe in Jesus who had raised Lazarus from the dead. Death and life are symbolized in the whole scene.
These readings help us to spend this day reflecting on the last day of joy in Jesus’ life. It is a transition from Palm Sunday to Bethany to Calvary that will be the location where Jesus dies on the Cross. We are preparing ourselves for the most solemn days of the year. We call these days Holy Week and so they are as we follow the Gospels in narrating the last six days before Jesus dies. We come to realize there has to be a Good Friday if there is to be an Easter Sunday. May we pray more attentively and devoutly during these coming days so that Easter may be a return to the joy and peace that Jesus experienced in the home of Mary and Martha and Lazarus. Amen.