Monday, April 02, 2007

The cost of Christian discipleship

Monday of Holy Week

Readings: Isaiah 42:1-7; Psalm 26; John 12:1-11

Saint John interprets the event of the anointing of the feet of Jesus at Bethany, which we are given as today’s Gospel reading, as a foretelling of Jesus’ death. This episode in the life of Christ can, therefore, serve to remind us of the events that we are about to commemorate during this Holy Week. Furthermore, in considering the roles of Mary and Lazarus in this Gospel story, we can also gain some insight into the nature of Christian discipleship.

Both Mary, who anoints the feet of Jesus, and Lazarus, who is a guest at the table of the Lord, are, each in their own way, drawn into the drama of growing resentment and hatred at the life and message of Jesus Christ. The enemies of Jesus even seek to kill Lazarus, who had been raised to new life by Christ, because he is such a powerful witness and the cause of many believing in Jesus. Similarly, Mary is criticised for wasting her energies and resources on Jesus when there are others who appear to be more deserving of her time and possessions. Her piety is considered to be a distraction from the main business of service to the poor.

So we see that anyone who wishes to be associated with Jesus Christ risks experiencing the wrath and anger of his enemies. Some of the criticisms aimed at the followers of Jesus can be very subtle, for instance, the charge that the poor should be our priority. Certainly there is an important place for service to the poor. Indeed, it is a fundamental aspect of Christian conduct. Yet, because Mary recognises who Jesus really is – 'I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into the world' (John 11:27) – she understands that he too must be given due honour. Taking some time to recall and to enter into the events of the Passion of Christ during this Holy Week is one way in which we can, at this time, give honour to God and express our own Christian discipleship.

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