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by Susan Russell

The gospel story appointed for this Monday in Holy Week is the retelling of Mary’s extravagant outpouring of precious perfume as a gift to Jesus — a gift that earned her a tongue lashing from Judas.

It is a story not only told in this Gospel according to John. In Mark it says, “The disciples were infuriated with her.” Matthew says, “They murmured against her.” But what all the tellings of the story have in common is that the good deed – the gift she offered – was judged and rejected by those surrounding Jesus who thought she should have made a different choice.

And then Jesus intervened.

“Let her alone. Why do you criticize her?” he asked – and then challenged them  to look beyond their “either/or” mind-sets to embrace what we call “both/and” thinking: that feeding the poor is always important but so is taking care of each other: that in doing what she did – offering what she offered – she gave not only a gift to Jesus but an example to us of risking to give abundantly, to love extravagantly.

What an example for us to claim on this Monday in this Holy Week. And what an antidote to the “either/or” challenges that face us at every turn as the paralysis of polarization grips our nation.

The State of Indiana comes to mind – where the false choice between religious freedom and discrimination is making headlines. It’s what Richard Rohr is talking about when he writes:

“…Up or down, in or out, for me or against me, right or wrong, black or white, good or bad…it is the basic reason why the ‘stinking thinking’ of racism, classism, religious imperialism, and prejudice of all kinds is so hard to overcome … The dualistic mind and heart always compares, competes, conflicts, conspires, condemns and cancels out any contrary evidence and then crucifies with impunity.” [Richard Rohr, Falling Upward]

Jesus submitted to being crucified in order to bring an end to crucifixion,” said Ed Bacon in his Palm Sunday sermon. “To have the mind of Christ is to interrupt and dismantle whatever is crucifying us or others.”

The prayer that began our worship on this Monday in Holy Week is full of “both/ands” – joy and pain/glory and crucifixion/the way of the cross and the way of life and peace.

For the “way of the cross” is by its very nature a both/and – a way we walk throughout our spiritual journey and a way we walk in a most intentional way this Holy Week.

May we be given the grace in these holy days ahead to walk with the sure and certain knowledge that the One who walked this way ahead of us walks along with us as well. And may we be given the grace to interrupt and dismantle whatever is crucifying anyone as we strive to claim the mind of Christ which is always in the process of healing and transforming pain and trauma into love and justice. Amen.