Holy Wednesday (Mark 14)

Christ in the House of Simon Dieric Bouts CROPThe word ‘Wednesday’ comes from the Northern European god Woden, known to the Romans as Mercury: he is the messenger God, the go-between. To be mercurial means to be volatile, changeable. Wednesday is the fourth day of the week: the day between the first three days and the last three days of the week. It is the turning point.

On the Wednesday of Holy Week, three decisive, history-shaping human events take place: 1.) The Sanhedrin decides to kill Jesus. This body of leaders had been building up to it for a long time, but on this day, the decision is made. 2.) Mary Magdalene, out of a very different place of decision, brings a very expensive alabaster jar of nard oil, breaks it open and anoints Jesus for his death. 3.) Judas decides to betray Jesus in order to push him to reveal his power fully, to reveal himself as the King of Kings.

A day of the turning point. We can ask ourselves, too, what we experience in our souls when we reach a turning point, when a great change is imminent, when something needs to change or die, that new life can break through. Our destiny often brings difficult, sometimes almost unbearable situations to culmination in these moments. Do we struggle to avoid them at all costs? Do we try to force the outcome that we’d prefer? Can we, in calmness and openness, look at such situations and ask: what wants to happen here, what needs to take place?

The Sanhedrin want to avoid the death of their culture threatened by an individual calling for a renewal of life, and they seek to eradicate their problem by destroying the one responsible. Judas wants to force this hoped-for new life to come now and in a way that he imagines it. He misinterprets the signs, for which he will soon suffer unbearably. But Mary Magdalene, being laid bare by grief and love, is the only one able to rightly recognize what is called for in the moment. And without concern for the non-essential (in that moment, the earthly expense for so much oil), she is able to do some good, and helps Jesus meet the future that is coming towards him, and that he is moving towards.

From time to time all human beings are called to be present and to act in such biographical moments. In general today, as human beings, we stand in such a great moment together. We are being asked to begin to awaken, to learn to discern the essential that needs to be done in every moment of our brief and precious lives.

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