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Second Guessers and Extravagant Gestures

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The best people are always the worst. They drive everyone mad by being so good at second-guessing everything bad.” ~ Criss Jami/“Healology”

Nobody likes a second guesser. That obnoxious know-it-all who always has the perfect solution after the fact, who lives to say “I told you so,” oftentimes never having uttered a word in the first place. Yes, the second guesser who dabbles also in revisionist history is a particularly tiresome and tedious soul.

This perverse mentality is of course prevalent everywhere. Certainly in the world of sports, where “You’ve gotta bunt the runner over to 2nd base in that spot“ and “How can you run the ball on 3rd &6?!” are merely two of the more popular hypotheticals you’re apt to hear whenever the diamonds and gridirons are open for business. Politics of course, especially in the day and age of Goliath-like cable conglomerates, the vast majority of which have long since abandoned the reporting of actual news in lieu of editorializing. Lifetime politicians turned talking heads, whose careers oftentimes defined the term mediocrity (or worse), have descended upon the airwaves like locusts explaining what they would’ve done to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. Many of them couldn’t even keep the roads paved.

“You shouldn’t have ordered the swordfish,”

“You should have taken 9th Avenue.”

“Why didn’t you bring a light jacket?”

..... the list goes on and on.

Judas Iscariot assumes the role of second guesser in today’s Gospel (John 12:1-11) as we look in on Mary of Bethany, the faithful and loving servant who took a liter of the costliest of oil, worth 300 days wages we’re told, and proceeds to anoint the feet of Jesus, drying them with her hair.

“Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?” was Judas’ remark on the heels of this remarkably lavish act, and scripture tells us that he said this not because he cared whatsoever about the poor, but rather because he was a thief, skimming contributions from the money bag that were to be otherwise used to help the marginalized and the indigent. “Leave her alone,” Jesus rebukes him, “Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

As Bishop Barron points out in his Daily Gospel Reflection, “At the climax of his life, Jesus will give himself away totally, unreasonably. This is why Mary’s beautiful gesture is a sort of overture to the opera that will follow.“ Mary of Bethany reminds us that love of God should supersede all, and we are given the opportunity to make the choice to love God with all of our heart, mind and soul every day. The Lenten Season affords us the opportunity to strip away all the distractions, to become more heavenly bent, for as GK Chesterton once said, “Nothing is important except the fate of the eternal soul.”

As I read today’s Gospel, I couldn’t help but think of another woman, the courageous and compassionate Veronica, immortalized by way of the 6th Station of the Cross for wiping the bloody and sweat-soaked face of Jesus as he carried his own instrument of execution to Calvary. These examples ~ and there are many others throughout scripture ~ underscore another truth: At the time of creation, God instilled a very unique and compassionate tenderness within the heart of the woman. No movement, feminist or otherwise, could ever diminish or deny what God has lovingly and meticulously sewn into the fabric of the female heart.

So as we continue to reflect upon the journey of Jesus this week against the backdrop of the Coronavirus Pandemic, let us remember the words of Saint Katherine Drexel, who said “The patient and humble endurance of the Cross – whatever nature it may be – is the highest work we have to do.”

We adore you O Christ and we praise you. For by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

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