Monday of Holy Week
An offering with Mary of Bethany (John 12: 1-11): Lord, I was keeping this for a special occasion. I now offer it to you. Others may think I’m being overgenerous or foolish, but so long as you understand, I’m content. Amen. Tom Shufflebotham SJ
Entering into Prayer
Today's Scripture (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.
Food for Thought
In today’s gospel, we go deeper into the drama of Holy Week. We are actually given a date: ‘six days before the Passover’; this is the third Passover in the Fourth Gospel, and there is a mounting sense of menace. Today’s reading brings together several important characters: Lazarus, whom Jesus loved, and had raised from the dead; his sister Mary, also beloved by Jesus; Judas Iscariot, whom presumably Jesus also loved, but who was about to betray him, ‘a great crowd of the Judeans’, and, finally, the Chief Priests who have decided to kill not only Jesus but also Lazarus.
Suggestions for Prayer
You might simply opt to ‘be there’, and gaze contemplatively at the scene, through the eyes of the characters involved. The heart of the story is an anointing; the setting is a dinner-party, apparently given to thank Jesus for having raised Lazarus. Lazarus himself is simply lounging about with the rest of the guests. Then there is his sister, Martha, who by contrast is ‘serving’ at the dinner-party.
The next character is Mariam, the other sister. What kind of person do you imagine her to be? You might observe the intimacy and the generosity of what she does: “a litre of myrrh, nard, the real thing, very precious” is generous; and for intimacy what do you think of her anointing Jesus’ feet and wiping them with her hair? Then you might exercise your nose: “the house was filled with the scent of the myrrh”. Does this say anything to you?
Then there is Judas Iscariot’s angry response: “why was the myrrh not sold and given to the poor?”, and the evangelist’s sour comment that this was “because he was a thief”.
Next the crowd, who “came not for Jesus alone, but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead” (they were spiritual tourists, you see).
But the story begins and ends with Jesus; at the beginning he comes to Bethany (a safe place, as opposed to the threat posed by Jerusalem); at the end ‘many Judeans came to faith in him’. In the middle he rebukes Judas for his hostility: “leave her alone, for her to keep it for the day of my burial”.
As you pray, consider this question: which character(s) do you identify with in this story? Which would you like to identify with? What difference might that make to the way you live today?
How are you going to respond today?
Think of a way in which you can show care and attention to another person like Mary did with Jesus.
Image for the Day
There is a Praying with Art video for this piece.
- How do you feel about this picture?
- How do you feel about this act of humility and service?
- How do you think that Jesus felt?
Examen (review of prayer)
Use any style of examen you prefer to review your prayer, or your day.