I’m facing writing the chapter in my book that terrifies me to write, because I’m not equal to it. It’s the heart of the story, and I’m so scared I’m going to get it wrong. It is, in fact, not the place where the gospel is told, but where it is shown, and I'm scared I'm going to get it wrong.
(I’m not scared that I’m wrong about what’s supposed to happen; it’s that what’s supposed to happen is so exactly right that I’m scared I won’t be able to write it well, because I am not exactly right.)
But then I was reading Fr. Reardon’s commentary on this week's readings today and read this section, where he is discussing Luke's accounts of the women who went to Jesus' grave to anoint his body after his death (emphasis mine):
Now there is a certain kind of “practical” person, an efficiency expert, who does not much appreciate what the Myrrhbearers were up to. Had he encountered them on the road that morning, he might well have asked them, “Just what good do you think you are going to accomplish?” Anointing a dead body, after all, does not make good business sense. It achieves nothing very practical. It is the sort of activity that fails to contribute to the Gross National Product. Except for its very small influence on the myrrh market, spice trading, and nard futures, it barely shows up on the Dow Industrials. It has no measurable results. The corpses thus anointed cannot be interviewed to ascertain if they are satisfied with the product, or which brand they prefer, or whether they would recommend it to their neighbors. Anointing dead bodies resists a quantitative analysis.
Over and against this quantitative point of view stands the completely unproductive, uneconomical, inefficient assessment of the ointment-pouring scene at Bethany: “She has done what she could” (Mark 14:8). In that assessment of the thing, we arrive very near the heart of the Gospel. Quite simply: We do what we can. We do not attempt to measure what we do, certainly not by its perceived results. We act solely out of love, letting God alone determine whether we have “loved much” (Luke 7:47). The final quality of our lives will not be assessed by what we have accomplished, but by our love (1 Corinthians 13:24). Only the God who reads the heart can put a value on that love.
Prominent in the midst of the Church, then, are those Myrrhbearers who came that morning loaded down with their spices and without the foggiest idea how they were going to enter a sealed tomb guarded by a massive stone. What an exercise in inefficiency, lack of cost analysis, and failure in planning. As it turned out, they could not even find a body to anoint. All that myrrh, just going to waste.
And I am reassured. “We do what we can. We do not attempt to measure what we do, certainly not by its perceived results. We act solely out of love, letting God alone determine whether we have ‘loved much’.”
Well. Now, at least, I know how to approach my work today. I will do what I can. I will do it out of love. I will pray for God’s mercy on me.
Peace of Christ to you,