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Lent is a time for Christians to fully examine their relationship with the Lord. Through prayer, sacrifice and service, we develop an understanding of what it means to "take up your cross and follow me." (Mark 8:34) As Christians, we are called to live Christ's life- not to study the life of Jesus and try to be like Him, but actually let Him live through us.

In my own journey this Lent, Our Lord is asking me to fully understand His love. Through several prayer experiences, I hear him calling me to this deeper understanding of His love- not just with my head, but with my heart. And the key to understanding that amazing love is to understand His suffering. My intellect understands that the Lord suffered, but I have never explored His suffering with my heart. His love is greater than His suffering, but how great was that suffering?

I am participating in an independent Threshold Bible Study called People of the Passion by Stephen J. Binz. In this study, I will explore the meaning of discipleship through the people who encounter Jesus during His passion. These people witness and are impacted by the suffering of Jesus. They saw the suffering of our Lord first hand. It is my hope that by going on this journey through their eyes, I will have a better understanding of His suffering and then of His love.

Please know that I am not a scholar. I have no formal education in theology, philosophy or church history. I'm just a regular person trying to make sense of what Jesus is asking me to do- to love like He loves.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Day 2- The Woman who Anointed Jesus

Mark 14: 1-9

In this passage, a woman breaks a jar of expensive oil open and lavishly pours it on the head of Jesus.  The people who are with them criticize her because the oil could have been sold for a large amount of money and given to the poor.  But Jesus defends her saying, "Let her alone; why do you trouble her?  She has performed a good service for me.  For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me.  She has done what she could; she has anointed my body before hand for its burial.  Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her."  The woman is a model disciple because she gave totally to Jesus.  She didn't give Him some oil, but gave all the oil and she gave her most expensive possession.  She recognized His divinity and gave the best of what she had to Him.  And she gave out of total love for Him- just like He was ready to give His life for her.  I should also point out that this is the only anointing Jesus receives before his death.  He couldn't be properly anointed when He died because He died on the sabbath.  And when the women came to anoint Him at the tomb, He was already resurrected. 

The thing that strikes me about this passage is that the woman so readily gave the best of herself in a lavish way before Christ gave His life for her sins.  Before.  I already know that Christ gave His life for me and yet I hesitate to give the best of myself.  Man, that makes me feel about this tall.  I wonder what character I would have been like in this scene.  Would I have criticized?  Or would I have understood and admired the woman's gift?  I would like to believe it would be the latter, but I can't help but think it is probably the former. 

Growing up in the Baptist church, many of the churches I grew up in took pride in the fact that they didn't have fancy buildings or worship spaces or decorations.  Instead, they used their money to help the poor or evangelize or fund new ministries.  They wore their plain spaces as a badge of honor for the advancement of the greater kingdom of God.  And they looked down on Churches that had lavish worship spaces.  Obviously, those churches were misusing God's money.  I admit, I bought into this philosophy.  Even when I started attending Mass, I was concerned over the lavish decorations in the Catholic churches.  And then I started going to Mass in one of those really lavishly decorated churches.  I couldn't help to lookbeyond what I was taught as a kid and admire the beauty.  And then I started to understand the reason the statues were were there and the reason the altar was decorated so ornately and the reason the monstrance was made of pure gold.  Everything was so beautiful because they were welcoming the presence of the Lord.  They were paying Him homage with the best of what they had.  They worshipped the Lord on a level I had never experienced.  Growing up, I learned about God and I learned how to pray to God, but it wasn't until I started going to Mass in those beautiful, old, lavish churches in New Orleans that I learned how to worship God. 

So where would I be in the scene when the woman pours the expensive oil on our Lord?  I think my younger self would have led the accusers.  But my now "wiser" self would not have hesitated to help pour the oil.  Oh, what I would give to actually touch our fully human Lord- to see His face with my eyes and feel His hair with my hands.  There are no words to describe how awesome that would be.  I know I can experience Him in the Eucharist and that is my greatest human experience.  But I am very much looking forward to that moment when I finally get to heaven (after paying much needed time in purgatory) and I get to experience our Lord with all my human senses.  That will be awesome.

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