Sunday, April 03, 2022

Let go, keep watch : part 1


The Gospel set for today is John 12:1-8. We hear how a friend of Jesus called Mary prepared his body for burial, before he had died. And how a disciple of Jesus called Judas took offence at her actions. And how Jesus rebuked his disciple (this is not the first time Jesus has had to rebuke one or more of his disciples) and affirmed his friend.

Jesus responds, ‘Leave her alone, so that she might watch over [what remained of the ointment] for the day of my burial.’ Leave her alone. His choice of words might be used in other contexts of freeing a slave or of writing a certificate of divorce so freeing a woman from a marriage. The point being made is that Mary owes Judas no explanation to justify her actions. She is under no obligation towards him.

But I am also struck by this: that, days earlier, Mary had not been able to leave her brother Lazarus alone. To release him to sleep with his ancestors, having died. I am not saying that she was wrong in this, simply noting it. Why note it? Because, as consequence of what Jesus said and did then, Mary shows, by her actions now, that she is able to leave Jesus alone, to release him from any obligation towards her, to allow him to die. Certainly, his disciples have not arrived at this place yet. So, what is a rebuke towards Judas is simultaneously an affirmation towards Mary.

Yet it comes with further instruction, or rather, with revelation. The friend who has given Jesus permission to depart in peace is the friend who can be trusted to keep watch over what will unfold. Why? Because they will not try to intervene, to be the protagonist, the hero who saves the day. As Judas will intervene. Instead, they will keep watch. Not abandoning Jesus, as the rest of the disciples do. But bearing witness. Testifying to what God is doing in the world, in entrusting Godself into less loving hands.

Where are you in the story?

Who, or what, do you need to let go?

What are you keeping watch over?


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