Readings: Isaiah 42:1-7, Ps. 27:1-3,13-14, John 12:1-11

“There, they made him a supper; Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair, and the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment.” (John 12:2-3)

As we continue our spiritual journey during Holy Week for the Catholics, we can’t help but observe that there are two camps: those who support Jesus and those who are scheming against him. This is a time of choosing; we must know where we fit in.

The top priests were completely against Jesus. They were even planning to kill Lazarus to erase any sign of Jesus’ authority. Didn’t they realize that someone with the ability to revive the dead cannot be kept down by death? Hatred makes us irrational, propelling us into conflicts we know we will never win.

Mary and Martha were among the few still on Jesus’ side. They brought Him inside their home to show their gratitude for reviving Lazarus. Meanwhile, Judas Iscariot portrays today’s Christians as undecided. Outwardly, we claim to adore Jesus, but deep down, we just care about our selfish interests. Where do I belong? This gets us to our lessons for the day:

1. God Expects Our Thanksgiving: It is essential to thank God for even the smallest blessings we get. You could be asking, “Does God need my thanksgiving?” Yes. It does not benefit Him, but it does make us more blessed. When just one leper returned to express gratitude, Jesus inquired, “Were not ten cleansed? “Where is the nine?” Jesus told him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:17-19). Mary and Martha were not like the other nine leprosy patients. They understood the significance of Thanksgiving.

2. Nothing is too large or too small for Thanksgiving: The leper’s best option was to say “Thank You”. God wants us to kneel and praise Him. Mary and Martha went above and beyond, organizing a Thanksgiving dinner for Jesus and his followers. While Martha served food, Mary took a pound of pricey pure nard oil and anointed Jesus’ feet, wiping them with her hair. This was her unique way of expressing, “Thank you for bringing my brother back to life.” Judas complained that the oil was too expensive, but Jesus said, “Leave her alone.” Learn to count your blessings and express gratitude. The sincerity of your heart, rather than the worth of your thankfulness, is what matters. If you can afford it, why not? God does not expect you to pay for His favors. He merely wants to see your faith in action.

3. Bitterness Kills Our Faith: When Lazarus died, Mary and Martha must have felt betrayed, since Jesus did not appear to avert his death. Many of us reach this point before abandoning God. We might grow so bitter that we permanently reject Jesus. We stop acknowledging our blessings and start claiming, “Prayers don’t work.” Can you imagine Mary and Martha turning Jesus away when he arrived four days after Lazarus’ burial? Imagine that Mary and Martha were still upset with Jesus after he resurrected Lazarus from the grave. When we are bitter with God, we no longer recognize His benefits because we are too focused on what we lack.

4. Watch Your Heart When You Criticize Others: Do you ever feel that certain individuals are doing too much for God? Are you upset when someone spends a long time praying (takes their faith seriously)? Do you grow upset when someone makes an “unreasonable” donation to a religious project? For Judas Iscariot, Mary was squandering this oil. “It could have been sold and the money given to the poor.” Meanwhile, he claimed this not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a robber. Avoid criticizing people. Let God be the judge. God knows when our religious efforts are only for show (as with the scribes and Pharisees, whom Jesus labeled as hypocrites), and when they are sincere.

5. Avoid Pretense: Stop openly portraying yourself as someone who cares about the poor (or is close to God) when you aren’t. Remember, God sees everything. It is better to be good than to try to be good. In the First Reading of the day, God says: “I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations.” Isaiah 42:6.

Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, teach me to give gratitude from the heart, and allow that I may be a light to the nations rather than a hypocrite. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen

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