Holy Monday: anointing, cleansing and happiness
Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.
There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.
Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.
Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him,
Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?
This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.
Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this.
For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always (Jn 12:1-8).
The Jews commemorate Pesach today: the time the Israelites escaped slavery in Egypt by marking their doorposts with the blood of a pure lamb so that the spirit of the Lord might pass over their homes in the slaughter of the first-born. In the Gospel of John, he records that six days before the Passover, Mary lavishly anointed her Lord in anticipation of His burial. Christ commends her for the deed, saying: “Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her” (Mk 14:9).
Pope Benedict XVI wrote of this: ‘There is only one anointing that is strong enough to meet death and that is the anointing of the Holy Spirit, the love of God. There is, then, something that is both exemplary and lasting in Mary's anointing of Jesus at Bethany. It was above all a concern to keep Christ alive in this world and to oppose the powers that aimed to silence and kill him. It was an act of faith and love. Every such act can have the same effect.’
Holy Monday is also frequently linked to the Lord’s cleansing of the Temple which had become a den of thieves. The House of God, supposedly a place set aside for meditation and prayer, had become a place of hypocrisy, insincerity, greed and lust.
Christians are called to be living sacrifice; to worship God daily in their daily actions and with their every word. This is becoming increasingly difficult in a context of aggressive secularism confronted by a toothless church. But the witness of our extravagant devotion to the Lord is wholly dependent upon the purity and honesty of our lives: and that must be marked by humility and love, not by aggressive demands for rights or assertions of pride. Let Caesar collect his taxes and make his laws: it is for Christians to cleanse our temple and devote ourselves lavishly to the Lord, and then may be found peace, joy and happiness.