The hosannas have fallen silent; the greenery on the road into Jerusalem is dusty and trampled; and Jesus himself has slipped away to Bethany. On Monday in Holy Week the Church puts before us two very challenging readings. There is the Song of the Servant (Isaiah 42. 1–7) with its constant refrain about the bringing of true justice, and John’s account of the dinner at Bethany, where Mary anoints the feet of Jesus with a jar of pure nard (John 12. 1–11). On the one hand there is joy and dedication in the fulfilment of a mission that brings freedom and wholeness to a world grown sick and disordered with sin; on the other there is that lyrical moment of reckless love which draws censure from Judas with his spurious concern for the poor.
We must find Jesus in both; we must be Jesus in both. Every Christian is called to work for the establishment of true justice in the world, for the restoration of that right order which alone enables us to live freely and joyfully. But we must also be ready to break the jar of nard over the feet of a Christ who so often comes among us in hidden form, and, harder still, accept the anointing given us by others. To be the Lord’s servant is to work and pray, for true justice is not established by action alone but by transformation in and through Christ, a transformation only prayer can bring about.
Note: the Solemnity of St Benedict is transferred to Low Week this year: 5 April.