Today’s Gospel puts before us a model of great faith, trust and fidelity in the context of relationship and a contrasting example of wilfulness and isolation.
The contrast is both real in that there are two protagonists (Mary and Judas), and symbolically revelatory in that Mary’s relationship is lived at the level of emotion, feeling and commitment to a person, whilst Judas’ relationship is lived in the head, and is poisoned by false thinking. It is a strong contrast between knowing about Jesus and knowing him.
Judas is trapped in his own thoughts about Jesus and, to some extent, is so focused on his own thinking and perspective that he fails to see intimacy and love as it is lived out in his very presence. He is trapped within his own opinions, and he chooses to see life in terms of his own perspective. Certainly, he states a value – care for the poor – but ego manifesting itself through false reasoning, makes use of this value and turns it into a criticism. A trap for all of us to notice and, indeed, avoid.
Mary, by contrast, is, first of all, silent. She adopts the stance that is perhaps the starting point of all prayer – humility, silence and listening – and she allows herself to be led by her love for Jesus into actions that reflect this love. Again, a model for all of us to imitate in our daily lives.
For reflection, we might notice the ‘fruits’ or outcomes of the two approaches.
For Judas, his thinking will eventually lead him to betrayal. His lack of openness and lack of any willingness to see ‘more’ will make him vulnerable to seduction by the hostility of those plotting against Jesus.
Mary’s actions are within the context of the relationship and lead to an even deeper revelation by Jesus to her and others. What is more, her actions are held up as a model for all – perhaps symbolised by the reference to the whole house being filled “with the fragrance of the oil”.
May our relationship with Jesus be lived at a genuine level, and may it lead us to fill our houses (our environments of influence) with love.
Fr. Denis Travers C.P. is one of the consulters of Holy Spirit Province. He is also the parish priest of St. Pauls and superior of the monastery at Urrbrae, SA.