Homily for April 18, Monday of Holy Week
Until now, the daily readings have been guiding us through Lent and preparing us for the events of Holy Week, without necessarily following the strict chronology of the last 40 days of the Lord’s life. Now that Holy Week has begun, although we don’t have a detailed day-by-day account, the Gospel readings correspond more directly to the actual events during the last week of Jesus’ public ministry. This is evident from the introduction to today’s reading. We hear how the key players are in place for coming events. Jesus is staying with friends in a town on the outskirts of Jerusalem, on the slopes of the Mount of Olives. The chief priests are plotting to kill Him, and Judas is at the point of betraying Him. John tells us how Judas is a hypocrite, openly critical of the way Jesus allows Mary to be almost extravagant with her resources to show her reverence and gratitude to Him, even though Judas himself is a thief.
Taking Judas’ complaint at face value, the attitude behind it is one we still hear today, and one we ourselves can fall into. It is the idea that we should only spend resources in a way that produces direct, palpable fruits of social justice or material benefit. People say the Church should sell off it’s property and works of religious art in order to send aid to the poor. On one hand, in cases of special need sometimes the Church does do this. However, we cannot forget that the purpose of the beautiful buildings and religious art is to give glory to God and to help us to raise our minds and hearts in prayer to Him. This is a good in itself, and there is a place for it, like the expensive perfume that Mary pours out on the Lord’s feet, as long as we also dedicate resources to help those in need.
However, it is perhaps more common that we fall into this error under the form of activism. Activism applies the same mistaken principle to the intangible goods of time and attention. We can get caught up in serving God and the Church in many practical ways, and not take time just to pray and to be with God. We might even feel guilty if we spend quiet time in prayer when we could be doing something with more immediate practical results. Certainly, serving others out of love for God is a great thing, but we also have to remember the importance of dedicating some time just to be with God, to thank Him, praise Him, to ask Him for strength and wisdom, and to pray for our other needs and those of our families, friends and communities.
Holy Week is an ideal time for us to be almost extravagant in dedicating our precious time to be with the Lord and to show our gratitude for His suffering, death and resurrection. The very fact that we are here at Mass today shows we have the right attitude; may God grant us to continue and, if necessary, grow in our generosity to Him Who is our “light and our salvation”.