This week I spent some time with the Gospel story of Mary anointing the feet of Jesus. When you sit with a Gospel story for long enough it gives God a chance to speak. After a while I kept coming back to the concept of just how lavish and amazing was Mary’s response to what Jesus had done in her life.
It’s so easy for us to fall into a casual Catholicism where we quickly lose track of just what it is that God has done for us. Mary seems to be one of the most striking examples in the Gospel of a person who was deeply aware of what the presence of Jesus meant for her life.
So this week, I am exploring the concept of extravagance on a few levels. How extravagant are you in response to what God has done, is doing and will do in your life?
FIND OUT ABOUT GOING DEEPER HERE
Well, hi there! It is Jonathan Doyle with you from ‘Going Deeper and Being Catholic.’ And it is great to have just a little bit of your time to share something with you that I hope will really encourage you as a Catholic Educator. My heartbeat, my real desire is to motivate, inspire Catholic teachers around the world because I am convinced that you have an incredible role to play in the lives of young people and in the new evangelization that John Paul II really encourage us to become a part of. And I do not know why these years I had a background in Catholic Education but I’ve worked with ten to thousands of teachers in live seminars and now, through the Going Deeper Program around the world. And I just think well, if you guys really knew what you are capable of doing and what God wants to do through you in the lives of young people. So many people say that young people, they do not want to go to Church; they are not interested in faith. John Baptist de la Salle, the great Catholic Educator talked about teachers being like visible angels that our students need to see. And often, in the Going Deeper Program, I talk about a great quote from the Church Documents that says that, “You as a Catholic Educator are a living Catechism. And our students are reading you.”
So, I just want to encourage you and I want to share with you some ideas in the podcast here that are going to be useful to you. It is quick, it is punchy, and you are very busy as a teacher, as an educator. So, I am not going to take too much time. But it is great stuff.
And what happened was I was at adoration this week and I try to get to adoration every morning. I am an early riser. So, I get up very early and then, I usually go on train for nearly two and a half hours. On the bike, I’m a crazy-obsessive-road-cyclist. So, my morning is awesome, I have the best mornings. I just get to pray. I drink really good coffee and I get to ride my bike ridiculously fast with a bunch of other people but safely of course, very safely; very respectful of other road users. But there I was at adoration, and you have got to put yourself in a place where God can speak into your life. We are so busy, we are so fragmented. Aren’t we? With so much coming at us all the time that we just don’t really allow God to speak to us. You know, think of Elijah, back in the book of Kings in the Old Testament. You know that time when he is hiding in the cliff of the rock and he knows that God is about to pass by and there is fire and there is raging wind and there is an earthquake and God is in none of that. And then, basically, when he does go out, there is this gentle breeze, and God is present there. So, I just want to encourage you, to consider Eucharistic adoration, to consider praying more because, not because it is a duty but because you are, as I always say in seminars, you are “Capax Dei”. In the Latin, that means, “You are that which has the capacity”, “Capax Dei for God”. You have the capacity for God. You are like a heat seeking missile honing on this tiger. We are made for prayer, we are made for relationships. So, I am just so convinced that so many teachers are so busy, there are so many expectations that you do not give yourself this gift of silence and time and prayer and If you listen in Going Deeper, and if you remember that community when you listen to me in this podcast, I am just going to come at you all the time with the need for silence, solitude, prayer, and some account across in the Gospels and in the Sacraments. That is the missing link for our teachers, and that is what I want to encourage you with. So, there I was. I should get on with the story, right? So, there I was, adoration and I began to really read the Gospels and you know, you go through different times in prayer. Prayer has been a huge part of my life for many years and you go through these different seasons. And I remember telling my spiritual director one point that I really struggled to read the Bible for a while. I was reading other stuff, John on the Cross, the Carmelites, and different things and praying in the office. But you know, I found that I was not that struck on just reading the Scriptures. I had that other times in my life. But more recently, I have really come back to reading the Gospels daily. Why? Well, first up, Pope Francis is on about it all the time. He is encouraging us, busy people, just to read a little bit of the Gospels every day. And I was lucky to attend a retreat with Karen, my wife, a few months ago, with an incredibly amazing man, a great friend of mine, a man who has been a part of Karen and my journey for many years. And he is a Carmelite priest, and he was the head of the Carmelites here in this country for a long time, the provincial. And he knows me better than anybody because I always used to go up there because I thought I was going to be a Carmelite Monk. I was convinced that maybe that was what was going to happen in my life. At the same time, I was madly in love with Karen, who now I have been married to for fifteen years. And this great priest, Father Greg Harming, would look back now and laugh at this amazing journey and seeing me different seasons over the years. So, he was coming to my hometown to give this retreat, we went along. And he said so many amazing things but he taught us about encountering Christ in the Scriptures. He said, “Yeah. You have got to… To pray, you have to know Jesus. And to know Jesus, you have to read the Gospels. You can’t know Jesus if you do not read the Gospels.” You know, Augustine said in the fourth century that, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of God.” That is not an accusation, that is not to load you up with a burden just like some Pharisee but it is just worth knowing that we cannot know Christ, we can’t know Jesus if we do not know the Scriptures and think about how central Christology is, Jesus. Catholic Schools are about Jesus. They are not about nice places for turning out good citizens. Yes, we do that as well. You think of the great quote from Marcellin Champagnat, the great fan of the Marist Order who said, you know, that he wanted to really create good Christians. He said, “Our schools should turn out good Christians and good citizens.” But at the end of the day, a Catholic school must ultimately be a place where we as staff and young people encounter Christ. And how do we encounter Christ? Through the Sacraments, through Community but in crucially, through the Gospels.
So, anyway, back to Father Greg Harming, he is in this retreat and he is telling us that to read the Gospels as the memoirs of the Apostles, as their memories of Jesus, their encounter with Jesus. And he gave me, I guess what you’d call this technically a Hermeneutic, a tool of insight, a way of reading, a way of understanding. He said, when you are reading a Gospel, or a Gospel story, ask yourself a question as you are reading about a person. He said, “What is it like to be you? What is it like to be you?” Think of the man climbing that tree just so he could see Jesus. Think of Martha and Mary and Lazarus and all the different people, the rich official who went to Jesus because his child was sick. Father Greg said, “As you read those stories, ask what it is like to be them?”, and really meditate upon their experience and their encounter with Jesus’ actions and words. So, at my adoration, I end up reading the Gospel of John, I love the Gospel of John, Chapter 12:6, and it is, “The Anointing of Bethany.” So, this is where Jesus goes into the house of Lazarus. Now, there are other translations. Well, there are other versions of the Gospels. I am talking to you today from John Chapter 12:6, but if you are taking any notes, you are also going to find that in Matthew 26:6 and in Mark Chapter 14:3. Now, in two other stories, they say that Jesus is in Lazarus’ house and in another version, they say He is at someone else’s house. Which is actually really interesting and people go, “Well, it is really confusing. It could never have happened.” But there is a great book actually written by a former high court judge in the United Kingdom who did this amazing analysis of the evidence in the Gospels and he said, “The fact that sometimes in the Gospels, this slightly conflicting versions of a story is really a great sign of its veracity, of its truth.” He said, “Because in criminal stuff, this was a man with forty or fifty years experience at the highest level of the law.” He said, “He says if witnesses all come in and they all saw exactly the same thing.” He says, you know, “It is not the real thing because no one ever gives exactly the same version.” So, in the gospels you see these slightly different interpretations and slightly different versions of a key event.
So, here we are back at Bethany, Jesus traveling and doing that stuff. I am going to read this to you, and I hope you will make a note to read it yourself, John Chapter 12:6. But here it goes,
“Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages. ” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
Now, let us get this open a bit and let us talk a fraction about how it could be useful to you as a Catholic teacher. Basically, there is kind of two things happening in this parable or in this story. Number one is of course, what Mary is doing. That is what we are going to talk about today. And secondly, is this whole thing about the preparation of burial which is a secondary thing that we are not going to look at this time when Jesus prophetically understands that what she is doing is anointing Him in advance for his burial. But we will talk about that another day. But, so a couple of key points, right, to get you into the story. I want you to picture that room with me, picture that room. It is crowded, there are tons of people in there and there is Lazarus there which is interesting because he is dead and now, he is alive again. None of us has ever been a part of it but that has happened. But let us talk about a bit of pure nard. So, she opens this pint of pure nard, and the summary things that happen in the Gospel that we grow up with and we read and we go, “Yeah, Okay. Pure Nard.” I mean, have you ever seen nard. You know what nard is? I do not know what nard is. I just looked that up and found out that it is incredibly rare. At least in Palestine at that time and it was only available by importing it from North India. But, here is the cool thing, it was worth about three hundred denary, one pint. Think of a one pint bottle, worth three hundred denari. Now, according to the research I did, a standard day’s wage was worth one denari. So, if you are at manual library, you get paid one denari a year. So, here is Mary holding a bottle worth a year’s wages for an average person.
So, think of a person working in your town who is doing a basic manual job. So, that might be making, depending on where they are in the world, or what time you are listening to this, maybe forty or fifty thousand dollars a year. Imagine holding in your hands a bottle worth fifty thousand dollars. I mean, like going into the most expensive department store and buying a massive thing of the most expensive perfume in the world. That is how serious this thing was. So, for her to break that open and the smell to fill the whole house, think about that for a minute. I mean, this is Palestine, right?, first century Palestine? Not a lot of indoor plumbing, friends, not a lot of indoor plumbing. I mean, you open this thing, this pure nard, it would have been incredibly noticeable, filled the whole house, it is that in the actual Scripture. Couple other interesting points are up is that, firstly, this thing about wiping Jesus’ feet with the hair, this would have blown people’s minds. For a start, Jewish women, did not let their hair down in public. Hear that again, Jewish women did not let their hair down in public. And also feet, you do not really touch people’s feet. Yeah, there was word about people… you know, people, first century Palestine, you are walking around in the mud, the dirt, there is often toilet stuff happening in the streets. Like feet, what kind of funky friends. Feet, what kind of like not them done thing. And here is Mary, letting down her hair in public, with all these people jammed into the room and she is touching someone’s feet and she is wiping this feet with her hair with something worth fifty thousand dollars. I mean, this is probably reading the Gospels, and I often get inside and I actually think how mind blowing this story actually is.
So, I want to wrap this up. You are busy and I want to get to the point. Here is the point, I am sitting at adoration and I am thinking right, well, okay. What am I learning here? What is the message Lord? What are you trying to tell me through this? And you know, often people say, “God spoke to me. I heard God.” God did not speak to me in adoration. I don’t hear voices or anything. I mean, maybe I could but I come from a Carmelite background. And you just sort of do not, sort of, need that. So, I am just thinking, so, it’s how he spoke to me was through an insight into the story. And the insight I suddenly had was the word, “Extravagance.” I was sitting at adoration, I read this story about extravagance, just resonated through my whole experience. I went, “That is the most extravagant gesture, so over the top.” And I looked up ‘extravagant’ in the dictionary and the definitions I found, they did not really do a justice. Extravagance was kind of like wastefulness, and wasting money. That is not really what I feel about the word extravagance in this context. It was just like something so amazing, and over the top that is just you know, incredible lavishness. There are synonyms, synonyms for ‘extravagance’ include, ‘profusion’, ‘lavishness’, I love those words.
So, that is what God was saying to me, ‘extravagance.’ And then, I thought, I want to give you two points. I want you to think about how extravagant are you when it comes to the things of God, your relationship with him, to your worship of him. Are you an extravagant Catholic? And I’m probably thinking most of us would say ‘NO.’ I mean, unlike some of our evangelical brothers and sisters, were kind of Catholic at least in this country, you kind of like, keep it on the down low, right? You, sort of, you don’t talk about religion in polite company, right, but, are you extravagant? The older I get and the more I start to do ‘Going Deeper’ and the more I just, I just think, “You know what, who cares anymore?” Maybe it is time to just really let it all out and just live the truth what I feel and believe and experience of God and His love for me and His call on my life. What if you were extravagant?
So, two levels of extravagance that I want you to think about. Number one is your extravagance with the things of God. I mean, are you generous with your time when it comes to relationship with God? You know, are you prepared to be, not everybody has to be out there insanely but we can all be extravagant. We can all have lavishness and profusion in our relationship with Him. Why? “We do not have to do that.” Look at Mary in this Gospel story, look at what she did. Why did she break open something worth fifty thousand dollars? Why did she let her hair down? The only reason she could have done that was because she had a profound awareness of what God had done in her life, a profound awareness. Friends, seriously think about it, her tears, her extravagance, her lavishness came because this man had radically changed her life and the love she felt and the gratitude she felt and in touching His feet, the humility that she felt. If we truly believe that God has done this for us through Jesus and He gives us the Sacraments in our Catholic faith. If we really believe, start to believe this that it is a process but then, would not we be becoming a bit extravagant in our relationship with God and in our prayer and in our generosity with our time and become more extravagant in evangelizing and communicating and standing up for the faith. And extravagant in loving people, not emotively, not like, ‘I feel wonderfully loving.’ But, in willing the good of the other and being generous to people with our time, with our words, with our compliments.
So, the last thing I want to do, the other level of extravagance was extravagance towards our students as Catholic Educators. Do you go the extra mile? Do you pause; do you listen to a student when they really need it? Are you extravagant with your time with them? Because as I always say in the seminars, “This is a vocation, it is not a job. If you want a job, you can do anything else.” But, I truly believe that if what I am saying to you is connecting with you it is because you have a vocation. That God’s called forth this ‘vocato’ from you, this drawing forth of your giftedness in these areas. Are you extravagant towards God? Are you extravagant towards your students, and your colleagues, and your staff, and your faculty? Let us just be extravagant. Let us just go away and read John Chapter 12:6. Sit with it a few times and just think about being extravagant.
So, I hope that is helpful. I am going to do more of this. If you are not currently using ‘Going Deeper’ in your school, then, what have you been doing all this time? I want you to get at beingcatholic.com.au, there will be a link under here and go to the ‘Going Deeper’ link and if you remember ‘Going Deeper’, share this link, share this podcast with people. ‘Going Deeper’ is an amazing online program that simply helps schools really grow in the Catholic identity and forms its staff. So, please share this link with as many people as you can, post it on social media. Share this podcast with people, come and join us in the ‘Going Deeper’ community which is growing all over the world. It is currently in Beverly Hills, in Palm Beach Florida, it is in all through Australia, it is in New Zealand, and so it is growing. It is awesome. And I hope you get the chance to share the good news about ‘Going Deeper’ with other people.
I am Jonathan Doyle. Post a comment under here. Tell me about your extravagance. You know, encourage people in the comment section under this podcast. But, there you go. I am Jonathan Doyle. This has been the ‘Going Deeper Being Catholic’ podcast. I am going to speak with you again very soon.