Friday, March 23, 2007

Fifth Sunday in Lent – C4

Fifth Sunday in Lent – C4

Years C
John 12:1-8

This Mary has stolen a march on the Magdalene by getting her hands on Jesus. Headlines: strike while the iron is hot, give roses while folks live. It seems that our little needs to honor aren't as easy to give to a missing body as a present one.

Once in awhile I wonder whether Mary got confused and had meant to anoint Lazarus, who may not yet be over his four-day stink - thus making him a more acceptable dinner companion. Or, having come to believe Jesus is Messiah and having experienced him getting out of many a scrape, Mary, knowing the authorities were out to get Lazarus (following 3 verses), anointed Jesus to throw them off the scent.

Regardless of such silly musings, Judas is often maligned for his imputed motivation of materialistic greed and Mary is lauded for her spiritual generosity. Into this too easy a dualism - hear William Stringfellow in Dissenter in a Great Society:

"In the Gospel of Christ there is no dichotomy between "material" and "spiritual." Indeed, the realities to which these words refer in the Gospel do not exist separately, in distinction one from the other, or in opposition to one another--although that was what the Greeks supposed and what many Americans still vainly assume. In the Gospel, these are made one, each indispensable to the other, each inherent in the other. The very event of the Incarnation concerns the reconciliation in the world of the realities which men call "material" and "spiritual." Since the Incarnation, for men to persist in thinking and speaking of "material" vs "spiritual" is not only a sign of confusion but is also both false and profane." (p. 36)

If we can associate Jesus with the outcasts, a question for Mary is whom should we be anointing today? Might it be the poor and would that, after all these years, reconcile Mary and Judas?

If we can't associate Jesus with outcasts, it's everyone for their own gain. Those honor Jesus best who end up with the biggest stash. Reconciliation seems absent here.

= = = = = = =

A Duel

The prodigal Mary and the older-son Judas
Side by side on the table sat;
'Twas half-past twelve, and (what do you think!)
Nor one nor t'other had slept a wink!
The old Dutch clock and the Chinese plate
Appeared to know as sure as fate
There was going to be a terrible spat.
(I wasn't there; I simply state
What was told to me by the Chinese plate!)

The prodigal Mary went "Anoint, Anoint!"
And the older-son Judas replied "The Poor!"
The air was littered, an hour or so,
With bits of nard and purse,
While the old Dutch clock in the chimney place
Up with it hands before its face,
For it always dreaded a family row!
(Now mind: I'm only telling you
What the old Dutch clock declares is true!)

The Chinese plate looked very blue,
And wailed, "Oh dear! What shall we do!"
But the spiritual Mary and the material Judas
Wallowed this way and tumbled that,
Employing every tooth and claw
In the awfullest way you ever saw-
And oh! how the oil and coins flew!
(Don't fancy I exaggerate!
I got my news from the Chinese plate!)

Next morning where the two had sat
They found no trace of Mary or Judas;
And some folks think unto this day
That religion scholars stole the pair away!
But the truth about the cat and pup
Is this: they ate each other up!
Now what do you really think of that!
(The old Dutch clock, it told me so,
And that is how I came to know.)

[with a nod and apologies to Eugene Field and the gingham dog and the calico cat]

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