Thus says the Lord,
who makes a way in the sea,
a path in the mighty waters,
who brings out chariot and horse,
army and warrior;
they lie down, they cannot rise,
they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:
Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
The wild animals will honour me,
the jackals and the ostriches;
for I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
the people whom I formed for myself
so that they might declare my praise.
John 12:1-8 Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus' feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, "Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?" (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, "Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”
Reflection In response to one of the most fundamental questions we humans entertain, “Why am I here?” St. Ignatius of Loyola puts it this way in the First Principle and Foundation of his Spiritual Exercises. “God created human beings to praise, reverence, and serve God, and by doing this, to save their souls. God created all other things on the face of the earth to help fulfill this purpose.” In other words, we are meant to be in relationship with God and to use the things of the earth to articulate our relationship. Which of course means, when we use the things of creation for any purpose other than pointing toward God, we confuse ourselves and conceal God’s presence.
Although Mary of Bethany (not Mary the mother of Jesus nor Mary Magdalene), whom we meet at a dinner party given to honor Jesus, although she lived more than fourteen hundred years before Ignatius, Mary rather considerably embodies the wisdom that Ignatius espouses. Watching carefully we see Mary holding nothing back. She pours out perfume worth a full year’s wages to anoint her dear friend Jesus. Fearless in the face of love, Mary defies taboos, daring to let her hair fall freely and wipe Jesus’ feet in an act of extravagant praise, reverence and service. In every way Mary uses the things of the earth to articulate her relationship with Jesus.
What if instead of storing up our riches, we poured them out extravagantly for the love of God and all of creation? What if we chose to imitate Jesus by fulfilling our purpose so clearly described in Isaiah’s scripture, “ to bring good news to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free…?” (Is 61.1) What will it take for us to stop clinging to “former things, or perseverating over “the things of old?” What will it take to let our proverbial hair down and perceive the new thing… God with us and with all people? What will it take for us to be as bold as Mary and hold nothing back? to give our lives, to praise, reverence and reveal God’s holy presence?
Returning to the wisdom of St. Ignatius, “Our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to God's deepening God’s life in me.”
This is the kingdom of God, already not yet. Do we dare to emulate Mary, audaciously pouring out all that we have and all that we are to divulge the secret that is hiding in plain sight … God is with us, already and not yet?
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