Monday, April 02, 2007

Monday in Holy Week
Nurturing the Crushed and the Wavering

Readings: Isaiah 42:1-7; Psalm 27:1, 2, 3, 13-14; John 12:1-11

He does not break the crushed reed, nor quench the wavering flame…

We may not be too impressed by this description of the suffering servant. Isn’t it quite natural that when one comes across a crushed reed – barely hanging on to life by a flimsy strip of plant material – one should refrain from breaking it off? And when one sees a wavering flame, isn’t it obvious that one should try to shield it from the draft instead of blowing it out? Who, we may think, would be so cruel and heartless as to do the opposite?

And yet, don’t we live in a society in which ex-convicts often find it difficult to start life anew? Don’t we take pride in belonging to a culture that, for all its benefits, sometimes so emphasizes the pursuit of efficiency and excellence that it overlooks effort? Don’t we sometimes cling so tightly to objective standards of perfection that we fail to notice the sweat dripping from the brows of those who try and try but still fail to measure up?

At some level, don’t I secretly agree with Judas’ objection in the gospel of today? How impractical and insensitive of Mary to present such an embarrassingly public display of affection! Couldn’t she have simply shaken Jesus’ hand or something? Couldn’t she have waited till they were alone? Yes, it’s not unlikely that had I been at Bethany that day, I would have simply broken the crushed reed, and quenched the wavering flame. It would have been the practical thing to do.

But, as we have had occasion to note before, Jesus sees far beyond appearances. He is not only concerned with the practical and the perfect. Beyond the awkwardness, he sees affection. Beyond the apparent waste of costly ointment, he sees an embrace of his own impending suffering. Beyond a simple act of anointing, he sees a preparation for his sojourn among the dead. He sees and he accepts. And miraculously the crushed reed is made whole, the wavering flame burns more brightly. Through the gentle ministrations of the suffering servant the captives are freed to enjoy a new life, a life to the fullest.

What are the crushed reeds and wavering flames in your life?

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