Following Palm Sunday we start entering the Holy Week till we get to Holy Monday. It is the second day of this Week of salvation.
Holy Monday’s Gospel speaks about the friendship between Jesus, Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Even if Mary does such a noble thing, that of taking a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair so much so that the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment (John 12:3), Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was to betray him) (John 12:4), was very much critical of what Mary was doing. However, Jesus knew Mary’s need of worshipping and honoring him. Hence, he defended her in front of Judas and gave her the complete freedom to worship and honor him according to what the Spirit dictated to her heart. Furthermore, her act shows her love and esteem for her special friend. Frienship is an inestimable value. No money can ever gauge what real friendship is and where can it lead to.
In his defense of Mary, Jesus is showing that he always enjoyed being in the company of good friends. In his life, Jesus has always sought to have real through friendship. Pope Francis has very interesting reflections regarding what true friendship is all about. First, friendship is generous, self-giving, and leads us to seek the true good of our friend. In his post-synodal apostolic exhortation especially dedicated to the young people and to the entire people of God, Christus Vivit, the Holy Father said: Friendship is one of life’s gifts and a grace from God. Through our friends, the Lord refines us and leads us to maturity. Faithful friends, who stand at our side in times of difficulty, are also a reflection of the Lord’s love, his gentle and consoling presence in our lives. The experience of friendship teaches us to be open, understanding and caring towards others, to come out of our own comfortable isolation and to share our lives with others. For this reason, “there is nothing so precious as a faithful friend” (Sir 6:15) (no.151).
Second, for a good friendship to be built it needs both patience and time between the people involved. Nothing serious can be built when patience and time are lacking. Thirdly, notwithstanding the fact that friends can be different from each other there is always room for a common ground which help them grow together. Fourthly, real friendship calls for perseverance and faithfulness which gradually mature as time goes on. In a speech to a family gathering in October 1972, St Josemara Escrivá said that faithfulness can be achieved by loving others the way they are, because of their weaknesses and defects. This practically means loving them in their uniqueness, each according to his own personality. Such a great endeavour does not happen automatically. To do so, he we are to pray to God to give us a heart to the measure of His; in first place to fill my heart more with Himself, and then to help us love all men and women, without ever gossiping about them, knowing how to understand and pardon the defects of others, since I know how much God puts up with from me.
Finally, the value of friendship is so essential in life that Jesus himself openly shows us that He really is our greatest friend who infinitely loves us as well as takes immense delight in accompany us just as we are. In Christus Vivit number 153 we read: Friendship is so important that Jesus calls himself a friend: “I do not call you servants any longer, but I call you friends” (Jn 15:15). By the gift of his grace, we are elevated in such a way that we truly become his friends. With the same love that Christ pours out on us, we can love him in turn and share his love with others, in the hope that they too will take their place in the community of friendship he established. And even as he enjoys the complete bliss of the life of the resurrection, we, for our part, can work generously to help him build his kingdom in this world, by bringing his message, his light, and above all his love, to others (cf. Jn 15:16). The disciples heard Jesus calling them to be his friends. It was an invitation that did not pressure them, but gently appealed to their freedom. “Come and see”, Jesus told them; so “they came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day” (Jn 1:39). After that unexpected and moving encounter, they left everything and followed him (no.153).
As we can see, for the Christian, friendship is a gift and a mission. When the Congregation for Divine Worship established the memorial of Saints Martha, Mary and Lazarus, which we celebrate every 29 July, it said: In the household of Bethany the Lord Jesus experienced the family spirit and friendship of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, and for this reason the Gospel of John states that he loved them. This memorial amplifies the important fact of maintaining deep families relationships as well as making room for Jesus to sit at the center of our family. The holy example of Martha, Mary and Lazarus encourages us to do our best to live a united family life. They opened their family to him. And Jesus’ presence in their midst is a powerful testimony of Our Saviour’s intimate desire to befriend us as one family as well as each family member too. Shared love and unity is the grammar Jesus teaches our families to learn and live. Irrespective of the hurting situations our families are suffering Jesus wants to enter and be at the center of our family as he undoubtedly did in the case of the family of Martha, Mary and Lazarus.
Lord Jesus, in the Holy Monday we ask you to enter into our family and community and take your center seat. Help us forge bonds of unity and mutual respect. Fill our family and community with the fragrance of you holy love. Heal us from any past hurt caused by any sort of division and lack of forgiveness. Help us share this gift of familial and communitarian love with others. Dear Jesus, we trust in you! Amen!
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap