26 March 2018

Reflections in Holy Week 2018 (1),
Monday, Saint Mary’s, Askeaton

The Risen Christ with Mary of Bethany (left) and Mary Magdalene (right) … a stained glass window in Saint Nicholas’s Church, Adare, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Monday 26 March 2018, Monday in Holy Week:

8 p.m.: Evening Prayer, Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton.

Readings: Psalm 36: 5-11; Hebrews 9: 11-15; John 12: 1-11.

Hymn: 217, All glory laud and honour

May I speak in the name of + God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Throughout this week, as we journey together through Holy Week, we continue the gradual build-up from Palm Sunday, with services each evening in this group of parishes. We are here in Saint Mary’s, Askeaton this evening [26 March 2018], in Saint Brendan’s, Tarbert, tomorrow [27 March], then we journey on to Rathkeale on Wednesday, to Castletown for the Maundy Eucharist on Thursday evening, so that we can mark Good Friday prayerfully and appropriately here in Askeaton.

All this is to prepare us to celebrate the Resurrection, on Easter Eve in Rathkeale and Castletown on Saturday evening and in Askeaton and Tarbert on Easter Day.

During Holy Week, we have a series of readings from Saint John’s Gospel, in which Jesus has a very different set of encounters or exchanges each evening.

This evening, we are invited to be spectators, to be guests if you like, in the home of Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus in Bethany. And there Jesus is the guest of honour, in the evening before Palm Sunday.

So, we have just taken a step back by one evening from our Gospel reading yesterday morning (Mark 11: 1-11; see John 12: 12-15).

Martha and Mary offer their home in Bethany as a place of welcome, peace and refuge for Jesus. His life is under threat, but still he has time, and they have time, for a meal together.

We had a hint of the Easter story already in this home when Jesus raised their brother Lazarus from the dead.

Now we have a sign of Jesus impending death, when Mary anoints his feet with costly perfume.

But Judas fails to see the full picture, to understand the full scenario that is beginning to unfold.

Judas has a point, I suppose, from our point of view. There is so much need in the world, so much need around us, there is so much that is demanding of the best of our intentions.

But so often the best of my intentions remain just that, and I never do anything about them.

How often do we hear people say, ‘Charity begins at home,’ as a way of putting down people who genuinely want to do something about the injustices around us, even the injustices in the wider world?

Yet, so often, we suspect, that in their case charity does not even begin at home … it never even gets to the starting blocks.

For Mary, in our Gospel reading this evening, charity begins in her own home. But we get a hint that it is not going to end there. It has only started.

Judas is told the poor are always going to be with him … perhaps because charity does not even begin in his own home, never mind reaching out beyond that.

Mary’s action is loving and uninhibited, Mary’s gift is costly and beyond measure.

Love like that begins at home, and it goes on giving beyond the home, beyond horizons we never imagine.

Later this week, the disciples must have been reminded of Mary’s actions when Jesus insisted on washing their feet in a similar act of love and humility.

How would I feel if Jesus knelt in front of me and washed my feet?

Would I worry whether I had smelly socks, whether he would notice my bunions, chilblains and in-grown toenails, so concerned about what he thinks of me that I would never stop to think of what I think of him and what he thinks of others?

Or would I, like Mary, smell the sweet fragrance that fills a house that is filled with love.

Someone recently described prayer as ‘a time of living in the fragrance and the scent of God. It is gentle, light and lasts long. It comes off us; if we live in love, we spread love, and others know that something deep in us gives a fragrance to all of our life’.

Mary is extravagant and generous and is not inhibited by the attitude of others around her.

How much did she understand about Jesus’ impending death when none of the disciples saw it coming?

Mary does not sell the perfume, as Judas wants. Instead, she kept it and she would bring it the grave early on Easter morning with the intention of anointing the body of the dead Jesus.

Can people smell the fragrance of Christ from us?

Are we prepared to let charity begin at home? And then, in the joy of the Easter Resurrection, to allow it to be shared with the whole world?

And so, may all we think, say and do be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

John 12: 1-11

1 Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2 There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 3 Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5 ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’ 6 (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) 7 Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8 You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’ 9 When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

The Collect of the Day:

Almighty God,
whose most dear Son went not up to joy,
but first he suffered pain,
and entered not into glory before he was crucified:
Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of his cross,
may find it none other than the way of life and peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Lenten Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Blessing:

Christ draw you to himself
and grant that you find in his cross a sure ground for faith,
a firm support for hope,
and the assurance of sins forgiven:

Tomorrow: John 12: 20-36, The Greeks who come to see Jesus

Wednesday: John 13: 21-32, Judas plans to betray Jesus

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Priest-in-Charge, the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes. This Holy Week Reflection was prepared for Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, on 26 March 2018.

Scripture quotations are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, and are used by permission. All rights reserved.

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