Today we read from an overlooked gem of the Old Testament – the book of Habakkuk. This short work takes the form of a dialogue between the prophet and God. Habakkuk is greatly distressed at the state of the world, and complains about it to God. The book opens with Habakkuk asking, “Lord, how long must I ask for help and you ignore me? I cry out to you about violence, but you do not save us!” Today’s reading for Lent is from the third chapter of the book, when Habakkuk has heard God’s response and promise. The prophet is now proclaiming his newly found reassurance that God will act from His awesome power and might to set His world aright.
The reading from John recounts the anointing of Jesus by Mary, the sister of Martha. This highlighting of Jesus as the “Anointed One” (the Messiah, the Christ) reminds us that God’s power and might are being revealed to us in the life and death of Jesus. As Habakkuk foretold, God is indeed acting to set His world aright. This happens, however, not in the violent manner we might have expected. The saving power and might of God is instead expressed in the self-sacrificing love and service of Jesus. We disciples are – like Mary did – called to treasure and honor our opportunity to know and follow Jesus. As Judas shows with his self-centered greed, true discipleship is an immeasurable gift to which we can stand very close, but still miss.