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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Holy Monday
Memorial of the martyrs for the sake of the Gospel.

Reading of the Word of God

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

John 12, 1-11

Six days before the Passover, Jesus went to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom he had raised from the dead.

They gave a dinner for him there; Martha waited on them and Lazarus was among those at table.

Mary brought in a pound of very costly ointment, pure nard, and with it anointed the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair; the house was filled with the scent of the ointment.

Then Judas Iscariot -- one of his disciples, the man who was to betray him-said,

'Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?'

He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he was in charge of the common fund and used to help himself to the contents.

So Jesus said, 'Leave her alone; let her keep it for the day of my burial.

You have the poor with you always, you will not always have me.'

Meanwhile a large number of Jews heard that he was there and came not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead.

Then the chief priests decided to kill Lazarus as well,

since it was on his account that many of the Jews were leaving them and believing in Jesus.


Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

With Palm Sunday we have entered Holy Week. The Gospel of John begins the narration of the Passion of Jesus with a dinner in Bethany at the house of Martha, Mary and Lazarus - a family that was very dear to Jesus. In the midst of his on-going struggles with the Pharisees and priests, this home had become a place of rest and repose. It was six days before the Passover, as it is for us now, and once again Jesus was having dinner with his friends. Lazarus, whom Jesus had recently brought back to life, was there too. At one point during the dinner Mary gets up, comes close to Jesus, and kneels at his feet, covering them with ointment and then drying them with her hair. The house is filled with the smell of the perfume. She might have done this out of gratitude for the gift of her brother’s life. Her actions are full of freely given love. Mary does not calculate how much might be wasted. She is only thinking about her love for the prophet that gave back her brother and who had expressed so much love for her home. But Judas thinks differently. For him, this gesture of love is indeed an unnecessary waste: “Why - he said aloud - was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” In reality - the evangelist notes - he said this because he was interested in the money or his own advantage, not the poor. His greed to possess this for himself had blinded him. Jesus responds immediately to Judas and says, “Leave her alone.” Jesus wants Mary to continue her loving gesture: the ointment she uses foreshadows the oil that will be poured on his body before his burial. Jesus adds, “The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” Jesus was about to begin his way of the cross, which would lead to his death. Mary was the only one who understood that Jesus was going to be put to death and therefore needed special affection and closeness, just like every dying person. This woman who lets herself be overwhelmed by Jesus’ love teaches us how to be close to this extraordinary teacher over the next few days and how to be close to the weak and the sick every day, especially the elderly, whose bodies weaken and need to be taken care of tenderly, sometimes literally with ointment. Mary’s tender and loving act, made up of simple and concrete gestures, is a symbol of the path of salvation: when we are close to the poor, the weak, and the elderly, we are close to Jesus himself. This is what Jesus means when he says, the poor you always have with you. They can tell us how much they need the ointment of friendship and affection. Blessed are we - and blessed are they - if we have the tenderness and the audacity of Mary!

Holy Monday