Most indifference and judgmentalism is rooted in fear, the fear that “I may not be right” or the fear that “I might be wrong” or even the fear that if I don’t “defend this or that “truth” my whole world will come apart.
But actions motivated by fear are so rarely helpful. Perhaps if a bus is coming toward you, then maybe fear is a good motivator! Usually fear produces nothing but smallness of soul and heart. That’s why the scripture declares that “perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18) And that is usually a wonderful barometer to test if we are living by love or living by fear. Is what motivates us producing peace in our lives or chaos? Is what motivates us making us more loving or more closed off and suspicious? These tests are the perfect way for us to pass through this truly Holy Week as we see the caustic poison of suspicion, fear, and envy.
Look at our Gospel Lesson today in Matthew 26:6-16. We know this story well.
When Jesus was at Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment and she poured it on his head, as he sat at table. But when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for a large sum, and given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.
Talk about missing the point! The disciples have been with the Lord from the beginning. They have heard Him teach, seen His miracles, and watched Him interact with all around Him, and yet, they are “indignant” about what they saw as “a waste.” They try to dress up their smallness by insisting it’s “for the poor.” But the truth is much darker, they are suspicious of the woman’s motives. They are concerned her “reputation” may damage the Lord’s (and by extension, their) reputation. And they are wrong. Their hearts are motivated by a smallness that is unbecoming a follower of Jesus.
And the proof of the poison in the heart of one is revealed. This is the “last straw” for Judas. His heart is so consumed with himself that this act of kindness, acceptance, and revelation of the Lord uncovers his own greed and fear. Judas goes to the enemies of the Lord to see what they will give him if he betrays the Lord to them – 30 pieces of silver!
But Christ reveals that this woman’s act of lavish worship is precisely for His burial. Of course we know the story of His death and how His body is removed from the cross late in the day and they didn’t have time to properly prepare His body for burial. But at this time, none of the disciples realized what He meant. She was preparing His body by this act of devotion and love. Just as the Holy Spirit is preparing the Lord’s Body, the Church, during this Holy Week to come to Pascha prepared to truly celebrate His resurrection.
Today, on this Holy Wednesday, the Church anoints the faithful for healing of body and soul. The Church remembers the gift of this precious woman and embraces the invitation by Christ to be lavish with our love, our worship, and our devotion. We abandon the spiritual poverty of suspicion, fear, and greed and embrace with joy the spiritual healing offered to us in the Lord’s Church to ever expand our hearts to hold the whole world. We don’t neglect worshipping Christ and excuse our lack of devotion with pious fictions of false love for the poor, but we prove we are, indeed, devoted to Christ by learning that our hearts will never love others as we should while our love for Him is deficient and small. We will never love the poor properly while our love for Christ is small! This week invites us to reject false excuses and embrace the true healing of our hearts in Christ. Our response will show in whether we are Orthodox on Purpose or not!