With so much Scripture proclaimed today,
its difficult to zero in on any other theme except gratitude for Jesus death
and resurrection. Yet, at the beginning of Sundays Passion narrative (Mk 14: 1-15:
47), Jesus says something which ties all three readings together; its a concept with
which all of us can identify.
Defending the woman who poured expensive perfume over His
head, Jesus reminds His cruelly critical disciples of one of Christianitys essential
beliefs. Leave her alone! He shouts. Why do you make trouble for her?
She has done a good thing for me....She has done what she could.
From childhood, I was told to imitate saints: people who
performed stupendous actions, lived completely unselfish lives, accomplished great things
for Jesus and the Church. But I quickly discovered that I really couldnt imitate
them. My faith and my world werent the same as theirs. I simply couldnt do
what they did. So I bemoaned my fate and consoled myself with just keeping those rules and
regulations - the bare minimum - which guaranteed that Id get into heaven one day.
Its clear from the way Mark narrates Jesus
passion and death that He didnt intend His followers to do just the bare minimum.
Yet His churchs usual practice of canonizing exceptional, high-profile people seems
to have dead-ended His plans. Thats why Therese of Lisieux early 20th-century
canonization touched something in the hearts of all Catholics. She was the saint of
the little way: someone who achieves holiness by simply performing her
everyday tasks in an exceptional way. She did what she could.
The basic problem with Jesus disciples in this passage
is that they have a single, pre-conceived idea of how one is to live his or her
Christianity in this context: by well thought-out, non-wasteful acts of generosity to the
poor. This womans spontaneous, exorbitant gesture doesnt fit their category.
But though they label her action ridiculous, Jesus calls it
an action of love: something she was able to do in a way no one else - including those
critical disciples - was able to do. Our early Christian authors hold up no one but Jesus
to imitate. As Paul reminds his Philippian community (Phil 2: 6-11), Jesus emptied
Himself. Whatever Jesus was - however God created Him - thats what He gave. He
didnt compare His giving with anyone elses giving. For Him, it was important
to give all of who and what He was.
Using our talents
Such uniqueness is also part of Deutero-Isaiahs third
song of the suffering servant: the first reading (Is 50: 4-7). Though most of us stress
the suffering the prophet experiences, notice the first part of the passage. Yahweh
God, he says, has given me a well-trained tongue that I might know how to
speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. Since not everyone has a
well-trained tongue, not everyone is sent to rouse the weary. But because
Gods given such a tongue to Deutero-Isaiah, he uses it to help others.