“Why was this oil not sold for 300 days’ wages and given to the poor?” These are the words of Judas as Mary anoints the feet of Jesus. Judas didn’t care for the poor but only himself. It is easy to regard Holy Week as just another week. It is easy to think only of ourselves. Holy Week calls us to step aside from our own wants and focus on Jesus. What holds us back from doing just this?
The Passion and Death of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ according to Mark is the most concrete, the most blunt, and the most dark of all the passion accounts. We hear how the darkness tried to extinguish the Light, the true Light that had come into the world, Jesus Christ. If the story had ended there, it would be sad, an unadorned tragedy, but we know, through the eyes of faith, that the story did not end there but in the glory of the Resurrection. We know that the dark could not extinguish the true Light that had come into the world. We know that there would be no Easter without Jesus’ passion, no Easter without Good Friday.
Ezekiel lived six centuries before Christ and was the only prophet to hear his call outside the Holy Land in exile in Babylon. Today’s reading is one of comfort. Ezekiel tells the people that God won’t abandon them forever. He will restore them. Does our faith grow better in times of trouble. Troubles are often the means God uses to fashion His people into something better than they were.
This is probably the most famous section of Jeremiah as he rants against God. Jeremiah would get frustrated and angry at God because of the many obstacles he had to deal with. Jeremiah often felt that God has tricked him,”You duped me O Lord, and I let myself be duped.” He felt deeply about the rejection he experienced and the punishments given to him for speaking God’s word. He had a message that no one wanted to hear. Jeremiah became keenly aware of what the people wanted to do to him. The people considered Jeremiah a traitor for telling them that exile was their fate, so don’t resist the Babylonians. This lament of Jeremiah has a glimmer of hope for him. He is confident that God is with him and that ultimately his enemies will not prevail. It is a matter of justice that God protect him. Typical of biblical laments there is a movement from lament to praise. When we go through difficult times and are persecuted for following God’s will in our lives, do we give God praise in spite of everything?
Abraham is mentioned in both readings for today. Pres. Jimmy Carter, a Christian, hosted Anwar Sadat, a Muslim, and Menachim Begin, a Jew, at Camp David. All three men claimed Abraham as their common father in the faith. Muslims through Ishmael and Jews and Christians through Abraham’s other son, Isaac. Thus, we should be treating each other as brothers of a common father not as rivals. What is your personal attitude toward Muslims and Jews? Do you see them as brothers or rivals?
The king presumes that the three Jews will bow down before the golden image rather than be thrown in a fiery furnace. They don’t and are thrown in. The three do not presume to know whether God will save them but they believe He has the power to save them. Outraged, the king turns up the heat. But, they are not consumed. The king sees the three unharmed and one like “a son of God” to protect them. He lets them go and praises the God of the three Jews who could instil such faith and courage in them. Does God instill faith and courage in you?
The Israelites in the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land seem to be constantly complaining. (Do you know anyone like that?) This time, they complain about the food God has provided (the manna). These complaints usually result in God’s anger and threat to destroy them. As usual, Moses intervenes and God’s anger is abated. Instead of better food, God sends serpents that bite the people and many die. As a remedy, Moses makes a bronze pole with a snake. (the source of the caduceus) Those who look on the image are healed. The church has looked upon this as a “type” of Jesus on the cross. When we look at the crucifix, it should remind us that Jesus has healed us of our sins.