As we enter into Monday of Holy Week, we are first greeted by a call to not only see light, but to be light in the darkness. The Prophet Isaiah reminds us that we are “light for the nations.” Psalm 27 declares, “The Lord is my light and my salvation.” We are co-creators with God in bringing and being light in this world. In today’s gospel, chaos is beginning to ensue around Jesus and the apostles. The chief priests are planning to kill Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. People are so afraid and threatened by Jesus that they would seek to kill the resurrected, decidedly choosing darkness over light.
Mary, who is not among the twelve but nevertheless functionally an apostle, bestows Jesus with an extravagant gift of perfumed oil. Judas, already enveloped in his own darkness, judges Mary hypocritically and says she should have sold the oil to give to the poor. Jesus rebukes him and accepts the gift. This part of the gospel always reminds me of a story passed down about Dorothy Day, the tireless founder of the Catholic Worker, a movement for peace and justice that serves the poor and hungry. Day lived on the Lower East side in New York City and worked the soup kitchen and welcomed people with no place to go to stay at her house of hospitality. One day, the story goes, a rich supporter donated a diamond ring. Day gave it to an elderly woman living in poverty, known for being cantankerous. One of the Catholic Workers saw Day do this and, like Judas, rebuked her saying that they could have sold the diamond and fed more people. Day responded that “the poor also deserve beautiful things.”
Today’s readings are not a validation of the worthiness of self-indulgence and frivolity but rather a testament to the need for joy amidst dire circumstances. In the midst of grinding poverty, impending death, your average Monday and everything in between, we must celebrate the light that comes into our lives out of darkness. It is our call as people of faith. As we embark on this holiest of weeks, may we see and be that light for one another.
—Heather Angell is the tutor director and chaplain at EVkids in Dorchester. She was a campus minister at St. John's Prep from 2007 to 2014 and is grateful for the formation and friendships she gained at the Prep!