Today’s reading: Matthew 26:1-25
Today we read Matthew’s account of the scene where Jesus is anointed with the expensive oil / ointment. Matthew tells us that all the disciples thought that this was a waste and the expensive oil could have been better used by being sold and the proceeds given to the poor. Jesus rebukes them and promises that here loving gesture to him will always be remembered.
Some people today criticize the Church of being to opulent. For having Cathedrals that are too big and having Chalices made of gold, etc. However, this argument fundamentally misunderstands the nature of the relationship between Christ and the Church. First, Catholics believe and scripture teaches that when the priest consecrates the bread and wine that it actually becomes the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. Believing this, should the Priest place the consecrated host on a plastic plate? Should anything other than a gold chalice be used to hold the blood of the Lord? The situation is identical to what is in today’s reading. Just as the expensive oil was appropriate for Jesus so are golden vessels – the only thing appropriate for the consecrated host.
Second, the Church has acquired the beautiful things it has over 2,000 years because the faithful have given it to the Church for the honoring and praising of God. Just like this woman anointed Jesus with the oil so the faithful have given to the Church for generations. To understand this correctly one really has to understand the nature of the relationship of Jesus to the Church. As we will see in our readings to come, the Bible says that the Church is the bride of Christ. As Jesus tells us a groom and his bride “become on flesh”. Christ and the Church are so closely related to each other that they are in some ways indistinguishable from each other. With this in mind, Saint Paul calls the Church, “the fullness of Him who fills all in all”. Fullness means filled up – with room for no more. Paul is saying that the Church is Jesus in this world until the Lord comes again. Thus to give to the Church, or to adorn the Church with paintings or statutes, or to give money for the ministry of the Church is the same as anointing the head of the Lord with the expensive oil.
Tomorrow: Matthew 26:26-46