Monday, March 26, 2007

Lent 5: Sustaining Reflections

This fifth week of lent, John 12:1-8, we get two perspectives of what it means to follow Jesus. The first picture comes from Mary who, in response to tremendous gratefulness for her brother Lazarus' resuscitation by Jesus, baths expensive perfume on Jesus' feet. The cost of the perfume is considerably high, nearly a year's salary, given 1 denarii could cost a day's salary. This abundant and overly gracious shower of love is a sign of both her appreciation for Jesus' work, reviving her brother, and a look ahead to Jesus own walk toward the cross and ultimate burial.

Our good ol' friend Judas however snaps, and 'righteously' calls for better use of the money for the sake of the poor. Besides the textual comment suggesting that Judas' intentions are never quite right, what about his concern? Why is it not better to use the money for service to the poor? Should we not assist and sustain the resources of those 'without' by sharing the wealth?

This has been one of my many questions I've been curious about this week. Jesus commends Mary for her deed because, while the poor are always with you, "you do not always have me." Firstly, attending to the person of Jesus, the presence of God incarnate, is preferred over mere charity to the poor. I'm wondering this night how the center out of which we live and are sustained is driven first and foremost through the way we attend and listen at the feet of the holy one. Secondly, giving money to the poor isn't necessarily a long term solution although for many privileged ones such thinking is what we'd like to believe. Perhaps attending to the feet of Jesus, who is on his way through the most grueling week of his life, is to say, 'we take time to be present with those who suffer in this world.' What if sustainability is more concerned with the journey through something than the end product? Mary's life is sustained by her willingness to 'be' in Jesus presence not to suppose how things could get fixed or achieved. Mary's choice of extravagance will not be admired by many because it is pure foolishness in so many and various ways. And yet, it is her attentiveness to finding peace in and with one who suffers greatly, where her sustenance lies.


tamie said...

oh curious one, i am moved by your reflection on mary and judas tonight. what we know of judas' character leads me to suspect that our motivations and intentions matter profoundly, that the means *are* the ends, that 'success' is having an open and loving heart, not achieving a bunch of good things.

i've been doing some reflection on yoga lately, because it seems so selfish to spend tons of time focusing on myself (you can read a more lengthy reflection on my blog), and i too have been thinking about the poor...and what i've come to see is that the more time i give myself to search out my true core (what i think can also be called the 'mind of christ') the more i find that my motivations for being kind to people come from the deepest place inside me, rather than from some ego-desire to be perceived by others as a good person.

all this to say: yes. mary gets it in ways i think we often miss. judas is practical, efficient, political. mary loses herself in love...

Russ said...

It occurs to me that, on a simpler level, Jesus may be talking about hospitality. Let's say I went to visit one of my friends and he cooked me a big New York Strip and some twice-baked potatoes and roasted vegetables he bought at the Super Wal-Mart. It's much more important to show gratitude than it would be to snap at him for furthering society's disintegration by shopping at Wal-Mart, right? It's not a perfect analogy, of course, but that's something I get from the reading.

priest said...

The Bolg Looks Cool!

In Christ,

Fr. Nicholas L. Andruchow
Greek Orthodox Mission of Northern Arizona