Selﬁshness leads nowhere and love frees. Those who are able to live their lives as a gift to give others will never be alone and will never experience the drama of the isolated conscience. Jesus says something remarkable to us: “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Love always takes this path: to give one’s life.
To live life as a gift, a gift to be given—not a treasure to be stored away. And Jesus lived it in this manner, as a gift. And if we live life as a gift, we do what Jesus wanted: “I appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.” So, we must not burn out life with selﬁshness. Judas’s attitude was contrary to the person who loves, for he never understood—poor thing— what a gift is. Judas was one of those people who does not act in altruism and who lives in his own world. On the contrary, when Mary Magdalene washed Jesus’s feet with nard—very costly—it is a religious moment, a moment of thanksgiving, a moment of love.
Judas’s question in today’s Gospel can generate nearly endless debate about the role of almsgiving and charity in the Christian life. The context of the story in John’s Gospel reminds us that the message is always Jesus’s identity as the Son of God.
Pope Francis refers to Judas as someone living in his own world. This can happen to us if we split off the various aspects of our life. If we separate our ﬁnancial dealings from our spiritual lives, we lose sight of the things that really matter. We judge others by the size of their savings—or their debt—and not by the way they reach out to other to give or receive help. We would be scandalized, as Judas was, by the waste of money incurred by the anointing of Jesus. And like Judas, we would probably try to justify it by pointing to the good that could have been done with that money. But we would know in our hearts that the money wouldn’t have gone to feed the poor either. We would have put it in a safe little investment fund “for a rainy day.”
Read: Isaiah 42:1–7; John 12:1–11
On Holy Thursday many parishes take up collections of food or personal care items for those in need. Make a special trip to the store and buy nice items for this collection, things that you yourself would like to have. Too often we’re guilty of giving old and unwanted items from the back of our pantries and closets for these causes. Reﬂect on the difference in attitude between Judas and Mary as you do so.
We thank God, who has raised up in many a desire to be close to their neighbor and to follow the law of charity which is the heart of the Gospel. But charity is even yet more authentic and more incisive when it is lived in communion. Charity is not merely about helping others, but permeates the whole of life and breaks down all those barriers of individualism which prevent us from encountering one another.
There’s something about the season of Lent that draws us in, calls us to return to sanity, to austerity, to a change of heart and mind. That something is God’s grace. And it’s drawing us back to God’s merciful embrace. If you’re inspired by Pope Francis’s message and his commitment to Gospel living, and looking for ways to make that part of your daily life during the season of Lent, The Hope of Lent can keep Pope Francis’s heart-and mind-changing wisdom close at hand. Find it in our bookstore.