A jar of Nard, a loaf of bread, a cup of wine...and betrayal....
It has taken years, but in the last couple of Holy Weeks, I have begun to experience a sense of unquiet peace as the narrative of Christ's Passion unfolds. I call it an unquiet peace because I find an awareness of a sad compassion for Jesus, his followers and his accusers growing in me each year, even as the events of the betrayal, condemnation and execution of our beloved Savior come to a dramatic head. There is a sense of sorrow, continually revisited, in the sure knowledge that Jesus will be betrayed by Judas Iscariot, that he will be rejected by Peter three times, that the Sanhedrin and the Chief Priest will use any device to find a way to justify Jesus' death. As the shock in me wears down and the compassion increases, the unquiet increases. I view these events of the Passion and I know that when it comes to "now versus then," we are not so very different from those around Jesus in his last days.
Some of us are like the woman with the jar of nard. There is no expense we will not embrace, no length we will not go to in order to offer devotion to our Beloved. When that gesture is in public, then we too easily allow ourselves to condemn the waste of that sort of extravagant love. "The money would better serve the poor," and then Jesus reminds us that instead of complaining about someone else's choices we should perhaps take the opportunity to reach out to the poor here and now. They are always with us, and yet do we choose to recognize and then do something about it? Not often enough. So, each time that woman breaks the jar of nard open and anoints my Lord, I remember her gesture reminds me that I have not done enough today to serve the poor and the outcast.
As well, each time I officiate at Holy Communion and place my hands on the bread and lift the cup, I am reminded of the first, and last Supper Jesus shared with us. That reminder makes him present, reminds us that we have something of him that will always be with us...and reminds us of the loss we experience in his betrayal and death.
Finally, as the rector of a parish dedicated to Peter...I witness his three-fold betrayal and remember all those moments in my life when I could have been the man I have always wanted to be for my Lord and fell short of the mark.
This unquiet peace is not a loss of the awareness of the drama swirling around the betrayal and condemnation of Jesus. It is a rising knowledge that when we take this part of the journey with our Christ, we are willingly entering into a tale that, though 2000 years old, is one that we live out each and every day. Each day has in it a bit of nard, some crusts of bread and drops of wine. Each day we are given chances to embrace and lift up the poor in service to Christ. Each day we lose a little bit of ourselves when we take that chance and choose instead to turn away. Each day, we remember, repent and turn back to a loving God who is with us-even in the midst of betrayal-and who loves us completely, even when we stumble...especially when we stumble.