Sunday, March 17, 2013

17 March 2013 - Fifth Sunday in Lent

Shared Homily Starter

First Reading: Isaiah 43:16-21
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 126
Second Reading: Philippians 3:4-14
Gospel: John 12:1-8

If Paul were alive today, he might have said something like this: 

You think you have reason to be confident in your humanity.  Well, if anyone does, I do.  I am a cradle Catholic, was baptized when I was as a baby, had the best Catholic education, and became a priest and then part of the Vatican hierarchy.  I worked diligently for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and weeded out those who disagreed with official Church doctrine.  As to following Canon Law, I am blameless.

But whatever brownie points ─ no pun intended─ all this might appear to give, it is worthless and can even be counted as a deficit, in light of what Jesus is calling me to do and to be.  Any humanity that I have comes through the work of God in me through faith in Jesus.  If I want to share in the heavenly kingdom, I have to follow in the footsteps of Jesus in bringing about the kingdom.  It means a willingness to suffer loss of power, prestige, and even my life for the sake of love, compassion and justice.

I am nowhere near reaching that goal but Jesus calls me to press on, to make his work my own because he has made me his own. So my relatives, let us not dwell on our past but keep our eyes on our future as we continually return to God’s call as expressed in the teachings, the life and resurrection of Jesus. 

So that’s my interpretation of what Paul would say today.

In keeping with Paul’s suggestion to keep our eyes on the future, I looked at today’s Gospel with new eyes.  It is not that what I had heard or thought throughout the years was wrong or in any way lacking but I just wanted to see if anything else came up for me while as I reflected on this passage.

The first thing I noted was that it was also a Martha and Mary story.  Once again Martha was busy with the tasks of hospitality and Mary was giving all of her attention to Jesus.  Jesus doesn’t put down Martha’s efforts in Luke’s Martha and Mary story─ and─ in today’s Gospel, Jesus does not chastise Judas on the selfish reasons that motivate his concern for the poor.  Hospitality and concern for the poor are praiseworthy attributes but as Paul notes they are nothing unless rooted in Christ.  Paul states in the second reading, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection”.  In Luke, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to what he was saying.  In today’s Gospel, “Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair.”  Mary is getting to know Jesus.  Mary has been listening, listening intently, and so she knows, even if the Apostles don’t, that Jesus will be put to death. 

So when Jesus says to Judas, “Leave her alone… You always have the poor with you, but you won’t always have me,” He is also talking to us.  Jesus isn’t telling us to ignore poverty and injustice.  Rather, Jesus is telling us to also know what is happening in our own homes.  In other words, do we listen to and care for the Christ within those under own roofs?  Many of us spend a lot of time, money and energy on causes, while neglecting those near and dear to us.  Compassion and justice, just like charity, begins at home.  On the personal level and on the socio-political level, this is one of the messages of today’s Gospel.  What are your thoughts?

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