Are we using the Church to meet our needs? For own ends?

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Mary Magdalen anointing Christ s feet f 15v CroppedThis week’s Gospel tells the story of the extravagant act of adoration by Mary toward Jesus. She anoints his feet with something like $30,000 worth of perfumed oil. Judas sees it and objects that the money could have been better spent on the meeting the needs of the poor. The author of the Gospel tells us that Judas’ objection wasn’t made out of concern for the poor but because he wanted the money that was spent on the oil for himself. In that he was like anyone who has ever stuck their hand into the money box at a church social or a Little League concession stand.

The point is that Judas wanted a relationship with Jesus that met his needs, not because he was thankful that Jesus had given him so much. And in that, well, Judas is like a lot of people we meet in the world who are interested in what the Church can or will do for them, and less interested in a relationship of gratitude and love for God.

It’s a hard thing to hear because, truthfully, we are all sort of mixture of both Mary and of Judas. Sometimes even on the same day.

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...

1 Comment

  1. Pam McDonald says

    Thank you for sharing your sermon via email in this way. I appreciate “digging in” to the scriptures with you.

    In response to this weeks sermon on John 12 – Mary and the nard, you didn’t really address what for me is the most telling sentence of this passage:

    “She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial.”

    These words “Six days before the Passover …” strongly imply that Mary had some idea of what would unfold over the next few days: Jesus death and burial.

    She KNEW that Jesus’ passion, death and burial was imminent. His other words about not always having Him with us sounds much less self-serving when we understand the context that Jesus, the Messiah, is about to submit to the worst that worldly powers has to offer and to allow himself to be put to death for our sake. He is compassionate for her grief. “Leave her alone.”

    Contrast this with Judas’ disgust, hours after the Cleansing of the Temple two days later, that clearly Jesus was not going to fit into the Zealots’ plan to overthrow Roman rule in Israel, and that Judas might as well make some money on Jesus’ unwillingness to fit into the Zealot plan. And then comes Judas’ suicide when Judas realizes he’s been playing for the wrong team. (but that’s another story.)

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