Many TV seasons ago, one of the main characters in Chicago Hope had a near-death experience during surgery. During his recovery, he confided to a friend that he had learned the secret of life. It was "giving and receiving."
We thought of that comment during Holy Week this year when we reread two passages in the Gospel of John. In the first (12:3-8), Jesus is with his friends in Bethany and Mary pours some costly perfume over his feet. When Judas complains that the perfume could have been used in a better way, Jesus tells him to "leave her alone."
In the second (13:4-8), Jesus prepares to wash his disciples' feet during the feast of Passover. But Peter says to him, "You shall never wash my feet." Jesus answers, "If I do not wash you, you have no part in me."
These are very human moments in the Gospel. Something in Peter — his pride, perhaps — blocks his ability to receive this gift from his Lord, just as earlier something in Judas — his rationality, perhaps — kept him from thinking Jesus should accept Mary's gift. In both situations, Jesus emphasizes the importance of receiving.
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