LENTEN DEVOTION: Mary Is Justified by Johann Ernst von Holst

Morning and Evening Devotions for the Holy Season of Lent

Mary Is Justified by Johann Ernst von Holst

From The Crucified Is My Love

But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”  But Judas said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.

There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that?  For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.”  And they scolded her.  But Jesus said, “Leave her alone.  Why do you trouble her?  She has done a beautiful thing to me.  For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them.  But you will not always have me.  She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial.  And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” (John 12:4-6; Mark 14:4-9)

Here for the first time we are given a glimpse into the dark abyss of Judas’s heart.  The Lord’s repeated references to his suffering had gradually made it clear to Judas that this Jesus would not establish the dreamed-of messianic kingdom in worldly glory, that following him would not lead to the expected riches and honors.  He walked beside his Master, brooking in silence, while within him the love of money grew to thieving avarice, and under the reproachful looks and words of the Lord, his selfishness hardened into hatred of Christ.  It is true, he still wore the mask of discipleship, but he was incapable of understanding the love that urged Mary.  Yet he felt judged in his heart for his stone-hard egotism by her act of dedication, and the poison of his malice burst forth.  This attitude of Judas reveals for all time the mystery of the hatred of the world for the church of Christ.  The Lord’s enemies feel rebuked by the behavior of his true disciples and so try to get rid of them.

Judas tried in vain to cover his rage with the cloak of cleverly calculated love to the poor.  It is true that some of the disciples were thoughtless and foolish enough to agree with him, but the Lord saw through him.  He brought Mary’s act of love into the brightest light by saying, “Leave her alone.  Why do you trouble her?  She has done what she could; she has done a beautiful thing to me.”  Oh that we might also receive his praise: “You have done what you could!”  Truly, it is little that we can do, but who has really done even the little he can?  Won’t our bitterest self-accusations one day be that we have not done what we could?  But where perfect love is at work, it does everything it can.  And where it does, the Lord himself adds to it far more than we can imagine or understand.  He accepts Mary’s loving deed as the anointing of his holy body for its burial and resurrection, and declares that this will be proclaimed by every tongue as long as the world exists.  When we refresh someone who is thirsty with a drink of cool water, he looks upon it as done to himself, (Matthew 25:35, 40).  When we try to do God’s will, urged by love, he says these efforts fulfill the law: “Love is the fulfilling of the law, (Romans 13:10).

At the Last Judgment all calculating egotists (however hypocritically they still know how to cry, “Lord!  Lord!”) will be ordered away with the words, “Depart from me, you cursed,” (Matthew 25:41).  But those who have lived and died in love will hear the gracious words: “You have done what you could.  Enter into the joy of your master,” (Matthew 25:23).

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