Scripture reflection: Monday of Holy Week


11 Apr 2022
The detail of vault fresco Mary Washes Jesus’s Feet in church Chiesa di Santa Maria Maddalena in Campo Marzio by Michelangelo Cerruti (1663 – 1749).

Scripture reflections for Holy Week Year C 2022, inspired by the writings of Henry Nouwen.

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 full of the scent of the ointment. Then Judas Iscariot – one of his disciples, the man who was to betray him – said, ‘Why wasn’t this ointment 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 contributions. So Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone; she had to keep this scent for the day of my burial. You have the poor with you always, you will not always have me.’ John 12: 3–8

As I come to pray today, I reflect on my mood. Maybe I am looking forward to this special time spent with the Lord, or perhaps I feel tired and depressed by the demands others make on me. However, I am, I ask the Lord to be with me throughout this week, and particularly today.

I slowly read the Gospel text, perhaps several times. It is so familiar, yet always new. There may be something here I haven’t noticed before. I stop and ponder. How is it affecting me? Perhaps I, too, have done something out of love that was criticised by those around me. I bring that to mind … and consider how I felt then … and how I feel now. Or it could be that I was the one doing the criticising. On reflection … with Jesus’s words in mind, would I behave differently now?

I turn to the Lord and tell him what is in my heart, why I acted as I did, trusting that he will understand. If I need to, I ask for his forgiveness. I may find I identify with the poor, in need of money to feed myself and my family. How does this text make me feel?

I imagine the disciples’ reaction as they hear Jesus mentioning his forthcoming death and burial. What do they say to him? What do I say? In time, I conclude my prayer with my own words of thanks for this time of conversation with the Lord.

‘O dear Lord, what can I say to you?
Is there any word that could come to my mouth?
Any thought, any sentence?
You died for me, you gave all for my sins,
you not only became man for me,
but also suffered the most cruel death for me.

Is there any response?
I wish that I could find a fitting response,
but in contemplating your Holy Passion and death
I can only confess humbly to you
that the immensity of your divine love
makes any response totally inadequate.’

‘Let me just stand and look at you.
Your body is broken, your head wounded,
your hands and feet are split open by nails,
your side is pierced.
Your dead body now rests in the arms of your Mother.
It’s all over now. It is finished.
It is fulfilled.
It is accomplished.’
– Henri Nouwen, A Cry for Mercy

Compiled by St Bueno’s Outreach, Diocese of Wrexham, UK

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