I don’t know if you saw this in the news, but this last week the House of Commons, in Ottawa, elected a man who shouldn’t have been there as a speaker for the day. Mauril Belanger, who has been an MP for 21 years, has no voice anymore, because of his advanced Lou Gehrig’s disease. His long-time dream was to become the Speaker of the House. That will never happen, because of his ALS.
But the Parliament voted to have a one-day, honorary Speaker role, and Belanger is the first person to have a chance to fill it. It took some creativity, some changing and bending of the rules. Was it the right thing to do? Absolutely. It made all the difference to this one person, and, I would argue, to the humanity of the whole House of Commons.
Mary, always the impulsive one, took a whole pound of a costly perfumed lotion, and then, in full view of all the dinner guests, she came around the table and began massaging Jesus’ feet with her perfume and then wiping them down with her hair. Caressing the Teacher. In full view. It’s scandalous. We hardly realize, now, how scandalous. Imagine the incredibly bold sensuality of having a woman, in that society, perfume your feet and use her own hair to dry them.
And yet, somehow, according to Jesus, of all the things that were being done at that particular dinner by all the people who were there, it was the only thing worth remembering.
So what was it, exactly, that Jesus liked so much? So that we can behave more like Mary? I wonder if the principle isn’t that, when in doubt, we should follow our hearts, and follow compassion, and not always think and act logically.
On the level of calculations of benefits, the perfume was wasted on Jesus. But that’s not the whole TRUTH, if you see what I mean. Because Mary, by doing the wrong thing in the eyes of the world, did the right thing. And as the heart usually does, it finds a wisdom more wise than the world. In the logic of the Kingdom, Mary behaved like a saint.
We preach Christ crucified, said Paul, A stumbling block to Jews and idiocy to the rest of the world. And yet we still preach, confess, baptize, commune, and believe. We raise a cup of wine and a loaf of bread and say: “This is my body, this is my blood, given for you”. We spend a few hours a week neither exercising our bodies nor making money, but doing the strangest thing of all: gathering together to worship and care about each other. We are, in the eyes of most of the world, wasting our time.
What are you and I going to do next? We have that expensive pound of perfume in our hands. It’s either efficiency or love. May God help us, when we are faced with the rules of what is “appropriate”, to see the holy wisdom in following Mary, and doing, not what makes sense, not just what the rules might tell us, but what’s right.