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Acts of Love
Monday of Holy Week
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.
Opening Prayer: Jesus, when I feel the prompting of the Holy Spirit to be generous, loving, or charitable, give me the courage and love for you to follow through. Like Mary and Martha, prompt me to use my gifts to serve you generously. Open my eyes to anything, large or small, that I can give to you today.
- The Gift of Hospitality: In the Gospels, we often see Jesus enjoying the company of good friends, strangers, and sinners while partaking of a meal. How many souls did he win over in the simple act of breaking bread with them and sharing a glass of wine? Here we see his dear friend Martha using her gift of hospitality to provide rest and refreshment for Jesus and the disciples. There is no mention of the former irritation and martyred airs we saw from Martha earlier in the Gospel (Luke 10:38-42). Her time with Jesus and her gratitude for her brother’s miraculous rising from the dead had changed her fundamentally. Even before Mary poured out the valuable perfume, Martha had opened her home and provided generous hospitality for Jesus.
- The Gift of Treasure: The expensive perfume Mary poured out on Jesus’ feet was the perfume used by the Jews to anoint a person upon death. It is very likely that Mary took this from her family’s treasured stores. Why did she make this sacrificial gesture? Certainly, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were among the closest of Jesus’ friends. They were full of gratitude for his raising Lazarus from the dead. Did Mary somehow sense that Jesus’ death was near? We know that she “chose the better part” (Luke 10:42) and sat at Jesus’ feet whenever he was present, absorbing his wisdom and love. If anyone might have such an insight, it would be this woman who constantly sought to open her heart to her Lord. When we silence our own hearts and listen to Jesus, as Mary so often did at his feet, the gifts of the Holy Spirit transform our minds and hearts.
- Hypocrisy and Greed: Judas petulantly criticized Mary’s action. Of course, he would rather have sold the perfume and skimmed some of the profit for his own benefit as he had been doing all along with the money in their common purse. He probably felt that her generosity made them look bad—no one else had lavished such largess on Jesus. How often do we resent or criticize others due to envy or greed? In her book Your Blue Flame, Catholic author Jennifer Fulwiler asks us to “think of the people who rub you the wrong way, which you know on some level is because of envy…Often when we scratch the surface of our resentment of others, we encounter powerful truths about ourselves.” If Judas had taken some time for self-reflection, he might have realized that Martha’s hospitality and Mary’s shining generosity made him so uncomfortable because it was in stark contrast to his own hypocrisy and greed.
Conversation with Christ: Come Lord Jesus, and ignite in me the desire to be generous. Please use this time of reflection and prayer to point out to me the gifts you have given me for the good of others. Make me also keenly aware of the treasure I grasp too tightly. Open my eyes to the ways in which I need to give of myself, my time, and my treasure.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I ask you to show me an area where I need to be more generous, and I will take specific action to do so today.
For Further Reflection: Spirituality of Giving.
Cathy Stamper lives in Maryland with her husband, Mike. They have been partners in business, marriage, and parenthood for over thirty-one years. She enjoys reading, daily Mass, the beach, exercise, and time spent with her five young adult children, large extended family, and friends. Cathy is a lay member of Regnum Christi, an occasional speaker at women’s retreats, and an active member of her parish and Walking With Purpose.