EASTER READINGS – JOHN – SESSION 9

INTRO We come today to the concluding chapter of the so-called ‘Book of Signs’. The Signs expressed by Jesus so far are his actions that flow for Divine Love and Action, expressions of the Word that He is. The signs are also expressive the Johannine communities experience of the foundation Sacraments – Baptism and Eucharist. This 12th Chapter contains two signs that are done to Jesus rather than ones that Jesus does – they are in a sense His Father’s signs to His Son, that the ‘Hour’ has come! We heard Jesus say to Mary at the First Sign – the Marriage Feast of Cana – that ‘My hour has not yet come’ John 2: 4), but now Jesus reads the signs telling Him that indeed the ‘Hour’ has come!. Mary of Bethany anoints him ‘for the day of my burial’ (John 12: 7) and the Greeks come looking for Jesus, at which encounter Jesus says, ‘Now the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified’ (John 12: 23). The Final and greatest Passover has arrived!

[1] The Anointing at Bethany (John 12: 1-11). An unnamed woman anoints Jesus’ feet and wipes them with her hair in both Mark (Mark 14: 3-9) – again in Bethany and shortly before the Final Passover but at the house of ‘Simon the leper’; and in Luke (Luke 7: 36-40), much earlier in his ministry and this time in Galilee at the home of ‘Simon the Pharisee’. All three accounts describe a meal at someone’s home, Mark and John have it occurring at Passover time and related to Jesus’s burial; whereas Luke sets in much earlier in Jesus’ ministry and the setting is Luke’s preoccupation with mercy to the sinful and challenging the arrogance of the self-righteous.  There is a dialogue about caring for the poor in both Mark and John, with Mark emphasising the woman’s good and caring action – and John emphasising who Jesus is (‘You will not always have me’ John 12: 8). Judas figures only in John’s account. This is a good example of how each Gospel writer uses a shared recollection or story from Jesus’ ministry in a different way and different setting to emphasise different preoccupations of arising from the different characteristics and issues to be found in scattered Christian communities. The Evangelists are not seeking to record historical or biographical accuracy, but the Gospel is a Proclamation of the Good News in the setting of the originating communities. 

[2] For John’s Gospel, the Anointing is connected with the Raising of Lazarus (John 11: 39-44) and the coming betrayal by Judas (John 13: 21-30). So the conflict is here as the Hour approaches:  between the Life-giving Light that Jesus is and brings and the death-bearing Darkness that seeks to extinguish the Light and destroy the Life and freedom. After the meal at Bethany and with ‘so many of the Jews leaving them [the high priests] and believing in Jesus’ (John 12: 11), the Jewish leadership decide to kill Lazarus as well. Mary lavishes her love on Jesus: there are three prominent Marys in John – Mary, Mother of the Lord, Mary of Bethany who sits at his feet and anoints them with precious oil and Mary of Magdala who wants to cling to his feet. Each love Jesus with a passion and in different ways. Each lavish their love on Him who is the source of all Love. His Love draws out love from them – Love is a magnet, a divine magnet that draws us knowingly or unknowingly to the God who is Love. Each witness to Jesus – Mary the Mother at the foot of the Cross embracing the Church and the world in love (symbolised in loving John as her son) at the request of her dying Son; Mary of Magdala who finds a new freedom and healing, no longer having to cling to Jesus but knows she has Good News to ‘go and tell’ the Apostolic Community; Mary of Bethany who prepares Jesus for burial having seen how He conquers death itself with the raising of her brother into life. Each Mary teaches us about ‘Grace’ – the love they lavish is the love they have received from Him. They do not earn this love, they simply welcome and accept being loved. This being loved becomes the well-spring of the Spirit of Divine Love welling up inside them (as with the Samaritan Woman at the well). Our love for God itself God’s gift of love to us, a love that heals and fulfils us. All is Grace, freely and unconditionally given. As 1 John 3:1 and 4: 7-11 (esp 10) we love because we have been loved. It is both our human and our divine experience. So How can we lavish our love on Jesus who has loved us so much? The three-fold ‘command’ of Love – Love God with everything within us; Love our neighbour with everything within us; love ourselves with that same Divine love that is within us! Self-hatred is the enemy of love as much as hating others! There can be no love of God that is not love for the other and for ourselves! God’s love heals us into the freedom for love (Eric Fromm – the human person is ‘freedom for love’).

[3] Philip and Andrew bring the Greeks  (John 12: 20-22); Jesus the Word ‘the true Light that enlightens all people’ (John 1: 9) Sign that the Hour has come. Jesus’ mission of Love now so clearly extends beyond the conflicts with Jewish authorities in Jerusalem but begins its journey into a wider world – ultimately the whole world, represented by these Greeks who come searching. Jesus recognises that ‘Now the hour has come’ (John 12: 23) and speaks of himself and his passion and death, his ‘moment of Glory’ as  the seed that falls into the ground and dies to yield a rich harvest (John 12: 24-25), which is us, humanity made new and New Word. Death gives birth to life. What is true for him is true for his disciples – My servant is to be where I am – carrying the Cross of the world’s pain and hope – transforming darkness to Light, death to Life. The Mission of the Church, a servant Church, a healing Church a Church who like Jesus not only proclaims the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus, but whose Glory is to live it, dying to ourselves so that other might come alive!

[4] The Father speaks (John 12: 28) – moment of Transfiguration in John (different from the Synoptics) – this is the only time the Father’s voice is hear in John (unlike in the Synoptics where His voice is heard at the Baptism in the Jordan as well as on the Mountain of the Transfiguration) . This is the Father affirming Jesus on the eve of the Hour of dying and rising, that in the midst of its suffering, there is the true nature of Glory. How we misunderstand Glory, when we seek honours and titles, power and prestige. Divine Glory lies in the opposite – dying to all that because of Love – love is the only glory!

AFTERWORD How do I or our Christian communities ‘lavish love’ on Jesus – where is His Body to be cared for, anointed with a love that heals and raises up? How do we glorify God and do we seek our own glory rather than the Glory of God. St Irenaeus (2nd century Bishop and martyr) famously said, ‘The Glory of God is humanity fully alive’  – how do we glorify God – how do we enable all our sisters and brothers over the face of the earth to be fully alive? How do we ‘renew the face of the Earth?

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