She has done the best she could

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“When he was in Bethany.  at table in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of perfumed oil, costly genuine spikenard. She broke the alabaster jar and poured it on his head. There were some who were indignant. Why has there been this waste of perfumed oil? It could have been sold for than three hundred days’ wages and the money given to the poor. They were infuriated with her. Jesus said ‘Let her alone. Why do you make trouble for her? She has done a good thing for me. The poor you will always have with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them, but you will not always have me. She has done what she could” (Mark 14: 3-9).

                This scene occurs at the beginning of the reading for Palm Sunday, today March 28, 2021.  I understand her compulsion to do whatever she can for Christ. She has been forgiven her sins, and she has been following Jesus. She knows who he is, she knows that he is the Christ, and she believes him when he announces his death.  Her desire is to return her best to him, and she does not care what Simon or Judas, or anyone else thinks of her… only Christ matters.  The ugly reaction of others implies that she has not been caring for the poor, or in some other way was wasting her generosity on Christ! It also shows a lack of faith in what he has told them, that he will die soon and be resurrected.  The woman with the spikenard bears witness to what his handpicked Apostles will not accept, and she does it with the best she can do. She anoints him for his death and for his kingship.

                As a woman in the twenty-first century, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a college professor, active in my church, I also feel moved to give my best to Christ, and to bear witness. I think that many of us struggle to figure out what our gifts are and how we can offer those gifts back to Christ. What I would like to do is to humbly offer my own journey of desire for holiness. One of the things my spiritual director has encouraged me to look for my gifts, which, of course, all come from God and can be used for our ultimate purpose: to live with God in Heaven. And, as a mother, I want all my family, friends, and all those whom I can reach to be there with me.  My plan is to write about this journey, focusing on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I will choose women in the Bible that I have found inspirational models for how to serve Christ, as a woman, as myself.

                Today, on this Palm Sunday, my point is that the witness and care that women give in Christ’s mission on Earth are often overlooked. For me, someone whose ego troubles her because she feels overlooked sometimes, it is good to see that recognition is not important. Jesus tells Simon that “wherever the gospel is proclaimed to the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her” (Mark 14:9).  Yet, she is not given a name. It does not matter, for she has what she wants. She has Christ’s love and his gifts.  In the same way, you see other women there at the Crucifixion. While the men, except for John, have fled, the women are there with Mary. “Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother the younger James and Joses, and Salome. These women had followed him when he was in Galilee and ministered to him. There were also many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem” (Mark 15:40). Joseph of Arimathea takes the body down and lays it in his own tomb, but Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses witness and mark the place. They and Salome buy the necessary oils to clean and anoint the body. They continue to minister to him after death, support Mary and the Apostles, and are the first witnesses of the Resurrection. They do what they do because they know it is right. In their way, they are midwives to the birth of the Church. And they do this by being humble, serving, and working with the roles and gifts that God has given them.  Who could want more?

Freedom from Death

Photo by Renato Danyi on Pexels.com

So… first of all, I’m sorry that I’ve been missing for a couple of weeks. I’ve had a Theology paper due and it was a lot of work, as well as a great learning experience. It also made me think a lot about living in the light, instead of living in the darkness.

Lent, in the Catholic faith, is a time to think about light and darkness, life and death. Christ is preparing for His own death and resurrection in the scriptures, while He is teaching us to prepare for the same thing. Today’s readings were about Christ’s call that we die to self and that we live for Him. The Gospel that our priest chose this week (there were two possibilities) was John 11:1-45, the story of Lazarus of Bethany. Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead a few days after his death, so that others would see and believe that He has the power over life and death. Jesus calls for Lazarus to come out of his tomb, and tells the others to “Unbind him, and let him go.” To me, much of the lesson in this reading resides in this command, because to have faith in Christ is to give ourselves wholly to him and to be freed of the things of darkness. We know this is true from the examples of Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha.

Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair (John 11:2). When she was forgiven her sins by Jesus, she knew that He was the Christ, as she confesses in this passage. She anoints his feet with rich oil and wipes them with her hair, even as Simon looks down on her sinful nature. She is free from fear and acts as she knows is right, because Christ’s forgiveness has unbound her from shame. Christ states to Simon, “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:48).

Martha is the sister who frets because Mary is sitting at Jesus feet. She freely goes to Him and complains that she has no help serving. Christ gently reminds her that her priorities are wrong. He tells her  “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; 42 one thing is needful.[a] Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41). Martha is freed from her pride and her need to be responsible for everything. She goes to Jesus for help and He gives it to her. She is also the first to confess faith in Jesus as the Christ in the Lazarus story. She knows the truth.

Lazarus is freed from the fear of death. He knows the truth now, that Christ is the Word of Life. He no longer has to fear death because this is only his first resurrection, and he will have life eternal in Heaven, with this friend who loves him.

I know I need to pay attention to all of these lessons. Every day in my life is a gift and I must seek to honor that gift by loving and trusting Christ. Even my sufferings are gifts, because they bring me closer to Christ who loves me so much that He died for me. We need not be afraid of our burdens and sufferings. We need to suffer well by using the lives we are given to grow closer to God and to be more like HIm, so that we will be in Heaven with HIm one day.

The Big Question

This week, my spiritual director asked me a big question: If we know that choosing God is the greatest good, why do we choose lesser goods? Why do we choose darkness over light?

That’s an interesting question and one that gets to the heart of our relationship with God. Why do I, a person who knows God and knows that He is the Creator of all and all good, sometimes refuse to submit to His will? Why do I neglect gratitude for His graces? Why do I worry myself to distraction about things that I cannot control? Why do I waste my time on lesser goods.?

I am not saying that we cannot love people and things in our life. We are commanded to do so, and to love ourselves. Loving is always directing us toward God, or it should be. All goods are from God and owed back to Him. Yet we often choose to focus on something to the exclusion of God, and to twist our love of people and things into something that distracts us from God’s will. We see the goodness in many things; power, sensual beauty, worldly renown, etc. St. Augustine, in his Confessions sees nothing wrong with those pursuits as long as we recognize and submit to the law of God before all others. Ultimately, when we concentrate on these worldly goods and don’t consider God’s will, we are ignoring His voice, enjoying His goods without considering Who made them. We set our face against Him and ignore His voice. As Augustine notes, “All those who wander far away and set themselves up against you are imitating you, but in a perverse way; yet by this very mimicry they proclaim that you are the creator of the whole of nature, and that in consequence there is no place whatever where we can hide from your presence” (45). Augustine is right, we hide from God because of our pride; whether we consider ourselves too sinful or too self-sufficient, the result is the same. We close ourselves off from the grace we need to be fully human, which is to be completely subsumed in God’s will.

Pray for me this Lent and I’ll pray for you. I really do want your prayer requests. Please like and share and comment!! God bless.

  • She has done the best she could
    “When he was in Bethany.  at table in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of perfumed oil, costly genuine spikenard. She broke the alabaster jar and poured it on his head. There were some who were indignant. Why has there been this waste of perfumed oil? It couldContinue reading “She has done the best she could”
  • Freedom from Death
    So… first of all, I’m sorry that I’ve been missing for a couple of weeks. I’ve had a Theology paper due and it was a lot of work, as well as a great learning experience. It also made me think a lot about living in the light, instead of living in the darkness. Lent, inContinue reading “Freedom from Death”
  • The Big Question
    This week, my spiritual director asked me a big question: If we know that choosing God is the greatest good, why do we choose lesser goods? Why do we choose darkness over light? That’s an interesting question and one that gets to the heart of our relationship with God. Why do I, a person whoContinue reading “The Big Question”

Dogs and Children-Submitting to God’s Grace

He said to her, “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She replied and said to him, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.” Then he said to her, “For saying this, you may go. The demon has gone out of your daughter.” (Mark 7:26-29)

In this time leading to Lent, the Catholic Church’s Gospel readings have been about Christ’s healing power and His compassion for His people. He heals paralytics, the blind, and the deaf. He restores movement, vision, ears to hear, and He frees souls imprisoned by demonic influences that destroy reason and torment people with dark thoughts, fear, and compulsion. He heals lepers who long to be whole and loved again. He proves His power to forgive our sins and to heal us. Even to touch the hem of His garment is to be saved. The one common denominator is to will to be healed. To ask, beg, demand, sneak, get your friends to carry you to Christ. He wills it…He wants you to will it too!

I was very struck by the passage above, because Christ really challenges the Greek woman. In my own Lenten journey, I am challenged by the commandments to love God with all I am, and to love my neighbor as myself, for love of God. I am also, as anyone who knows me will tell you, challenged by obedience and submission to God’s will in my life. The Greek woman is a great example for me. She submits to the seeming insult, replying without hesitation that even dogs receive some of the wealth and love intended for the children. She is both submissive to Christ’s assessment of her, and certain of His love. She submits to His grace and receives his love and healing for her daughter. She takes a place at the family table, with all she loves.

As an American woman, I think I have learned to fear losing myself if I submit. But with God, there is only gain. He loves us, and His grace is there for us, if we can accept it.

Thanks for liking and following, commenting, or sharing. Post prayer requests!

Stepping out of the Whirlwind

New Life Begins

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word (T.S Eliot “Ash Wednesday”)

As I mention in my description, I’m working out my salvation in fear and trembling. Over the last year, with the help of my incredible spiritual director, I have been learning how to live in gratitude and surrender, even as things whirl about me. I am learning to deal with anxiety as a habitual need to control the events around me, rather than trusting God’s Providence in the situation. I’m not talking about suppressing my feelings, or pretending that anxiety is not painful. Rather, my director is teaching me to suffer it well, as an offering of prayer, and not letting it control my decisions or my actions. Much of anxiety, at least for me, is lies I tell myself…about worthlessness, guilt, and regret. Those lies get in the way of trusting God.

So for Lent this year, I’m obeying my director and building some spiritual strength by replacing these bad habits with good ones. Like Eliot in his poem, I want to step out of the mental whirlwind into the Word on His Cross and make Him my still center. The world and its instability can move on, but my still point is always there to grasp. One of my practices is going to be this blog, another is studying my faith, and another is prayer without ceasing. What are you doing for Lent?

Take a second to like or comment. Feel free to ask for prayers!

On Bad Motherhood, Life, and the Lie of Emotivism

Photo by Rene Asmussen on Pexels.com

St. Clement of Rome, one of the Apostolic Fathers, reminded the Corinthians of the right way to live:

“Humility, too, and a complete absence of self-assertion were common to you all; you preferred to offer submission rather than extort it, and giving was dearer to your hearts than receiving.”

Early Christian Writings (Classics) (p. 23). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

My mother’s birthday was on January 15. If she had lived, she would have been 90.  I think of her often, and not always in the best terms. She was not a good mother, and she was a woman frustrated by limitations and expectations not her own. In many ways, she is the woman that pro-abortionists write about. The one whose children would have been better off if she had aborted them—what a twisted line of thought.  We have become a perverted society to believe that death (just death, not a death with hope of resurrection, a complete cessation) is better than life.  This blog post is my love letter to my mom, for never considering anything but life for me and my brother and sister. Thank you, Mom, for doing your best for us. I know you suffered for the choice. I pray that you find joy in Heaven, with the only perfect Father.

We live in a fallen world, made dark by modernist/postmodernist ideas of the self. These concepts turn us inward and turn us away from the duties and obligations of mature love. We are taught that emotions are truth and that our feelings are the measure of right and wrong.  Freud has taught us that everything is sex and thus made sex a battleground rather than a unifying force for family. My mother was a woman who had an independent life before she met my dad. She had a daughter from a previous relationship, a position as an advertising executive, and a modest modeling career. She married Dad after a whirlwind romance and was thrust into the 1950s mode of marriage. Dad quit her job for her and her life became tied to being a wife and mother. She worked quite a bit, and even started a couple of businesses, but all was subject to Dad’s needs and his life. She didn’t like children, and yet the main business of her life was caring for them. I understand her pain. I believe she truly suffered emotionally, but she made the commitment and did her level best to keep it.  I have been blessed to raise five children of my own and to see three of them form lovely families of their own, in different ways and with different struggles.  I have seen their faith grow in those struggles, and mine has grown through suffering with them. My life is a gift from God and I am grateful for it.  I think that I have much to learn from a woman whose nature was not submissive. She was not always happy, not always joyful, in her submission, but my mom submitted to God’s will, as best she could, and I owe her a lot for that lesson. May God teach me humility and submission to His will, rather than my own.