Tuesday, April 15, 2014

When Mary Anoints Jesus and Judas Complains.

When Mary anoints Jesus with Nard, the oil of death ...

Mary accepts the inevitable end of the affair - that Jesus is headed toward a very strange "glory" ... 

Meanwhile, Judas expresses his "concern" for the poor - how much better to have converted the Nard into cash, cash for charity.

But the gospel nails Judas to his peculiar cross - he really doesn't care about the poor; he's just a thief, and enjoyed carrying the money bag and taking from it when he wanted.

Jesus says to him, "You will always have the poor, but you won't always have me."

First of all, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 15.11, which further encourages kindness and generosity - it has the feel of something more than just charity, but a substantive regard for those who are on the bottom side of an economy.

With that in mind, Jesus goes to the heart of the problem for Judas - he's incapable of a genuine act of devotion to God - he can't let go of anything that's his - and that's why he's incapable of kindness to the poor, even as he uses pious words in some kind of a lame effort to shame Mary for "irresponsible act of love" and puff himself a wee bit.

In other words, the man has no heart - he cannot see beyond his greed, his deceit - he lives in a world of scarcity and fear.

In that respect, who's the poorest person in the story?

Is it not Judas? Bereft of heart and soul, without love of God or neighbor, but only the love of his money?

What a tragic man he is, and what a glorious moment for Mary - who tells the tale, and speaks the truth in the Nard-anointing, the oil of death - who doesn't have to do a little dying now and then in order to live? Who doesn't need the oil of death, the scent of mortality, the reminder of time's inevitable denouement to complete the picture, and get the head and heart on straight? Who doesn't need to give, really give, and deny the allure of scarcity and fear, and trust the higher realities of God's faithfulness and the need to give away whatever one would hope to find.

Mary is the quintessential disciple here ... she knows the truth of Jesus, that his glory will be the cross (a very strange glory, indeed) and now is as good a time as any to see this. Break out the Nard - not in joyful celebration, but in thoughtful acceptance of truth. 

While Judas can only cling to the money bag, Mary anoints Jesus, and in her moment of truth, reveals her grasp of the story and establishes what it means to be a human being!

(My thanks to Richard Rohr and his fine Lenten Book, "Wondrous Encounters: Scripture for Lent).