Enjoy a re-post from last May... In the spirit of Sunday, a day of rest, I am joining with Fr.Christian Mathis from Blessed is the Kingdom and re-posting a favorite story from the past instead of writing something new. Join in, put your feet up and keep the Sabbath holy...
“Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to eat with him. So he went to the Pharisee’s home and took his place at the table. There was a woman who was a notorious sinner in that city. When she learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s home, she took an alabaster jar of perfume and knelt at his feet behind him. She was crying and began to wash his feet with her tears and dry them with her hair. Then she kissed his feet over and over again, anointing them with costly perfume.” Luke 7:36-39
The perfume that this woman poured on Jesus’ feet cost her a year’s wages! This was extravagant love indeed! I dream of being this woman, of pouring out all of my love for Jesus and having him respond gratefully. This is by far my favorite gospel story. Fr. Don Hying, the rector at St. Francis Seminary, writes about this extravagant love and says, “When we break open the alabaster jar of our lives, the world is filled with the fragrance of Christ.”(New Heart New Spirit, April 2008) I can easily see that alabaster jar being broken open in the love of Mother Teresa, and all of those wonderful missionaries who follow after her. I can see the alabaster jar being broken open when a mother sits up all night, exhausted, and patiently caring for her sick child. I can see the alabaster jar being broken open when two friends sit together and quietly share stories of the love of God working in their lives. I can see the alabaster jar being broken open at every Mass when the priest holds the precious body of our Lord in his hands and everyone looks upon it with love.
Recently, I witnessed two very real instances of alabaster jars in my own life and I would like to share those stories. Not too long ago, I was having a very bad day; I was feeling unloved and unlovable, really drowning in self-pity and sorrow. I spent an afternoon at home crying and pouring out my misery to God. Then, my husband walked in the door at the end of his workday. He held me in his arms for the longest time and poured love from his heart to mine. Later, when I opened the bedroom door, I found two dozen red and pink roses on our bed. They were the most beautiful roses that I have ever seen in my life! Now, Paul is not the type of husband who routinely buys me flowers. In fact, in the eighteen years since we were married, I can only recall two other instances when he bought me flowers. But this day, those arms around me when I needed them the most and those beautiful, fragrant roses were an alabaster jar of extravagant love that nothing could ever match!
Another instance of an alabaster jar brings a smile to my face every time I recall it. While babysitting for my great-nephews and great-niece, Alex, Andrew and Caitlin, we spent a sunny morning outside, delighting in the beautiful warm spring weather. Caitlin, having just turned one year old, enjoyed exploring her world from her new-found skill of walking. She wobbled from tree, to flower, to slide, to toy car, to sandbox with a smile of pure joy on her face. I’m sure our time outside completely wore her out! I was trying to delay her naptime to coincide with Andrew’s, so I know she was very tired. My nephew, David, came home for lunch, and the minute that Caitlin saw him, she threw her little, tired body down at his feet and wrapped her arms around his ankles as if to say, this is what I have been waiting for! Here is my beloved father who brings me happiness with his very presence! Watching the love of that moment, I was no longer looking at Caitlin and David, but before my eyes, I was witnessing Mary and Jesus. As David bent down to pick up Caitlin and hold her in his arms, her head naturally rested near his heart as if to say, this is all I ever need, and thank you for loving me.
Everywhere I look, I will be seeing alabaster jars breaking open for the rest of my life. The world smells delicious with the rich perfume of love hanging heavy in the air. I could never grow my hair long enough to dry all of the ointment mingling with the tears. And it doesn’t matter how many people may react with scorn and disdain and criticize the extravagance. Those alabaster jars are going to keep on breaking, the fragrance is going to continue to spread, because God’s love cannot and will not be held back. Once the fragrance of Christ is in the air, our senses are awakened and we cannot help but breathe it in and share it with others.