Monday, April 18, 2011

"Create in me a pure heart, O God; renew in me a steadfast spirit" (Monday of Holy Week, John 12:11-11)

Judas criticizes Mary for anointing Jesus’ feet, saying the money could have been given to the poor. One would expect Jesus to agree. Why should such a sum be wasted when it could have in fact been used to feed many? But that isn’t what happened. Instead Jesus turns to Judas and rebukes him, not because what he had said made no sense; but precisely because it made too much sense—at least in Judas’ calculating mind.

Poor Judas, up to this point, he still didn’t get it. He was still operating within the compass of the world’s calculations of investment and return. He had become too worldly for his own good, material concerns remained his priority. Mary anointed Jesus’ feet in what Jesus himself saw as a symbolic gesture foreshadowing the anointing he will receive at his death. But more than that it was an expression of Mary’s love for him, a love that went far beyond the utilitarian calculus out of which Judas operated.

The gospel reading tells us why Judas found Mary’s action unacceptable. It wasn’t really because he cared for the poor, but because he stole money from the group’s contributions. Intentions and motives, as always, make all the difference. Mary’s action may have been extravagant, but her motive was pure. Judas’ indignation may have been understandable, even salutary, but his motive wasn’t untainted. For God it is a pure and undivided heart that counts the most.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God; renew in me a steadfast spirit.” (Psalm 51:10)

"The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart." (Friedrich Nietzsche)