Archive for March, 2013



Too tall.  Too outspoken.  Too intense.  Too opinionated. Too much.

Maybe it’s because these labels have been applied to me that I am protective of the woman in last Sunday’s Gospel.  She was definitely too much for the crowd at the dinner at the home of Lazarus of Bethany.

Called Mary in John’s Gospel and “a sinner” in Luke’s, this is the woman who anoints the feet of Jesus with costly perfume and (in Luke’s version at least) with her tears, wiping the tears away with her hair.

We don’t know if she was rich or poor, single or married, beautiful or not, young, old or in-between, but we know she came to this dinner prepared to do what she did – it was not an impulsive, thoughtless gesture. The urgency came from her deepest heart.

Of course there’s usually someone present on these occasions who can be counted on to pipe up and label such actions thoughtless and frivolous, who minimizes the woman’s  convictions and attempts to shame her for her bad judgment: “She should have given the money to the poor,” proclaims Judas. I think he was embarrassed by her earnestness, her overflowing love, and needed to call the meeting back to order, so to speak.

I want to scream at him: “This is not about you and your self-righteous hypocrisy, Judas. Sit down and leave her alone!”  But that would have been going overboard, wouldn’t it?  Too emotional.  Too reactive.  Too inappropriate.  Too intemperate.  (Too unfeminine, some would say?).

Like the woman and her ridiculous little jar of nard.  You’re going to do what with that?  Now?  Here?  Really? 

What I love about this woman is her passion, her excess, her daring, the tears she could hold back no more successfully than I have been able to hold back my own, on more occasions than I can count. Her extravagant love takes my breath away.

While God certainly calls us to charity, God seems also to love extravagant display: a mile-wide field of lavender in Provence; the ridiculously un-useful size of the Grand Canyon; the black and orange Frank-Lloyd-Wright design of the Monarch’s wings.

Is all of that really necessary, in the grand scheme of things? Isn’t it a bit, well, much?

Evidently, the Creator doesn’t think so.

Along with extravagant beauty, extravagant love happens: The woman who gives her best friend a life-saving kidney; a bouquet of TWO dozen pink roses on Valentine’s Day; the privilege of helping a daughter with the down payment on a house when it is a stern-faced accountant deems it a questionable economic decision.

We don’t know what Jesus did or said to make the woman respond as she did.  Whatever it was, it overwhelmed her.  This is, not of the head, but of the heart. This is not some cheesy soap opera; this is the real deal.

It’s a lot like the father who could not contain his joy and love when his Prodigal Son came home and goes overboard with a party.  “The heart has reasons that reason cannot know,” Blaise Pascal told us hundreds of years ago.

So here’s to you: You who go “too far” with your enthusiasm, your passion for life, your love of beauty, your uncontrollable tears of sadness or joy, and your unmeasured, extravagant gestures offered in love.  Here’s to you: Sinners and ones who don’t really belong at that nice table, you whose choices (and the choices of others made for you) have stung your soul, yet you dance on anyway.

Jesus gets you –us.  And God loves us in ways that – like the woman who pours it all out — are beyond reason.

See you in church.


Barbara welcomes your comments at barbara.mraz@stjohnsstpaul.org

Read Full Post »