Wasted love?

“Mary brought in a pound of very costly ointment, pure nard, and with it anointed the feet of Jesus, the house was filled with the scent of the ointment” (John 12: 3)

As I listened to today’s Gospel being read, my mind returned to the day of my Perpetual Profession back in June 2011. The text of the Gospel was that used for the liturgy of the rite of Profession. It is a passage from John’s Gospel where a woman anoints the feet of Jesus with precious ointment (John 12:1-8). The story of Jesus’ feet anointed with tears and perfume by a sinful woman is a love story, pure and simple. Not some cheap romance or TV soap love but one of complete and oblivious donation! As I stood on the threshold of complete dedication to Christ in religious life, I saw this biblical woman’s gesture and felt Jesus  saying to me: “Louise, are you ready to do the same? To be this self-emptying gift of prayer and joyful love, unafraid of stares or conflict from an often uncomprehending society? Are you willing to be balm for the brokenness and hurt of today’s humanity?” With his grace, I answered with a heart-filled: “Yes!” With his grace, I try and answer ‘Yes’ every day. With a public consecration, a sign of commitment to the whole Church, I professed vows of chastity, poverty and obedience in community forever. I showed my readiness to consecrate everything I am and have to God because He first consecrated me, firstly through the gift of baptism and then by bringing it to maturation in the call to religious life as a Disciple of the Divine Master. It is a call not to hold back what I can be and give but to continuously offer acts of selflessness in justice, creativity and compassion for my brothers and sisters.

For those around her, the gesture by the woman in the Gospel was a ‘waste’! The same echo often resounds when it comes to religious life: Is it not a waste of a life? For me, it’s not! It is a life spent not on myself, but for others, a life dedicated out of love alone. For some, our prayer is a waste, for others going to Mass is foolishness, but for the ones who truly love Jesus it’s giving Him everything because He deserves it. Love knows no bounds.

Mary anoints Jesus with perfume that's worth a year's wages. The anointing of Jesus at Bethany is the last event in John's gospel before Jesus' "triumphal entry" and the ensuing passion narrative. From start to finish, then, life as a child of God is marked by excess and extravagance, both given and received. As the priest at Mass beautifully put it, God never holds back on the extravagance, but it is not nard that is poured but the blood of his Beloved Son from the Cross which anoints us.
Extravagance moves both ways. It's reciprocal, both given and received, by both God and his people. Sometimes God is the giver; at other times we are. At the wedding party in Cana, God provided a surplus of wine. At the dinner party in Bethany, Mary gave a gift of expensive perfume. Whether divine or human, given or received, these acts of reckless abundance are signs of what life is like with the living God. All of us want to feel that we are ‘worth’ something, to somebody, to the world. We like to feel our worth reflected back to us through affirmation, compliments, success and much more. But often we forget that we don’t have to do anything to earn the love of the Father.



Below is the song of thanksgiving which I wrote for the event of my Perpetual Profession based on the anointing at Bethany. I hope to upload the sung version of it soon.

Will it be enough?
In a house not far from Jerusalem, the scene begins to unfold,
Jesus rests with his friends, in the home of Bethany,
Mary feeling the time was near, brought out the costly oil
As she kneeled down at his feet, she softly asked:

“Will it be enough to anoint the Son of God?
Will be enough to be balm for humankind?
Will it be enough to free all those in chains?
Will it be enough? This act of love.”

And in that house of welcoming, the air begins to stale,
With those who simply fail to see this ‘waste’ of precious nard.
“Why not sell it all? It’s useless here!” said he of darkened heart
But Mary took her jar and broke it open there.

“Will it be enough to anoint the Son of God?
Will be enough to be balm for humankind?
Will it be enough to dry the tears of all who weep?
Will it be enough? This act of love.”

“See this woman and her love, a love that knows no fear
She risked it all, the stares, the hate because of that one act
Releasing perfume of gratitude, of prayer, of abundant love,
She anointed me...her Master, Saviour, All.”

Yes, it is enough to anoint the Son of Man,
Yes, it is enough because you don’t hold back,
Yes, it is enough, though some don’t understand.
Yes, it is enough, your act of love

Will it be enough (yes, it is enough) to anoint the Son of God?
Will be enough (yes, it is enough) to be balm for humankind?
Yes, it is enough though some don’t understand.
Yes, it is enough, this act of love…
Yes, it is enough, this act of love.

Comments

  1. A lovely reflection, and a lovely song, sung beautifully in June 2011.

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