“WHY GET CARRIED AWAY?” (Jn 12:1-11): 17 March 2008 (Holy Monday)

“WHY GET CARRIED AWAY?” (Jn 12:1-11):  17 March 2008 (Holy Monday)

Today’s Readings

Bette Midler starred in a 1979 movie called “The Rose.” It’s loosely based on the life of rock singer, Janis Joplin.  I never saw the movie because I figured that it would be too depressing to watch a movie about a self-destructive celebrity.   At least that’s what the trailer looked like to me then. But I’ve always liked the song from the movie.

The song has the simplest melody, sung by Midler in the simplest of ways–but it has the most extraordinary words!  The song is really a series of attempts to define love and to find a symbol for it in all its excesses:  a river that drowns, a razor that cuts, a hunger that aches.  

When it can’t settle for any of the definitions, it segues into its refrain, which is breathtakingly beautiful and true, and which may well sum up what Holy Week–and Christianity–is all about:

“It’s the heart afraid of breaking
That never learns to dance
It’s the dream afraid of waking
That never takes the chance
It’s the one who won’t be taken,
Who cannot seem to give
And the soul afraid of dying
That never learns to live.”

In today’s gospel reading, Judas Iscariot scolds Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, for wasting a whole liter of costly perfumed oil on the feet of Jesus.  It doesn’t make sense, he protests.  Why get carried away?  The money could have been used for the poor!

But Jesus scolds Judas Iscariot.  And he does that not exactly because he likes being fussed over.  The Jesus of the gospels precisely avoids such occasions (a contrary–and I think inaccurate- -portrayal can be found in the rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar” although this is one of my all-time favorite Jesus movies) .

In scolding Judas Iscariot, Jesus approves of Mary’s display of lavishness.  His reason?  Love is lavish.  His own love is lavish.  That’s the way God expresses his love:  He lavishes us with his love, but he does so in a quiet way, without fanfare, out of the limelight.

We see marks of this lavishness all over nature–in evolution, for example, that natural, but no less miraculous process where nature explores and experiments in many diverse ways (Teilhard de Chardin’s term for this phenomenon is “fanning”) until after centuries and centuries, nature becomes conscious, and finally in humanity,self-conscious!  Evolution is a process that succeeds because God allows nature to get carried away:  Along the way, while many species survive and others progress to higher levels of existence, so many countless others meet dead ends and disappear from the face of the world forever.  But for God, nothing is wasted.  It is the lavishness of his ways.

We see God’s lavishness also in our own personal lives:  how God gives so much in spite of the fact that we often, if not always, don’t deserve his gifts.  And he does so quietly, almost secretly, without calling attention to himself.  His is the lavishness of the sower scattering thousands of seed everywhere even if he knows that only a few of these will take root, grow, and yield fruit.  His is the lavishness of the prodigal father who not only accepts his returning son, but also puts ring and robe on him and kills the fatted calf as he throws a great homecoming party for him.  God, like the sower and the jubilant father, gets carried away.  But for him, there is no waste.  It’s just the lavishness of his love.

Most of all, we see the lavishness of God’s love in salvation history, most especially  in the suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord.  He didn’t have to save us in this costly and painstaking way, but he chose to.  He didn’t have to spill a single drop of his blood, but he chose to pour himself out and empty himself–completely!–like the perfumed oil that Mary pours over his feet.  Talk about getting carried away. But again, for God, none of it is wasted.  It is simply the lavishness of his love.

Now, back to the song “The Rose”:  In its search for the right metaphor for love, the song finally settles for the rose, whose seed lies quietly hidden in the snow of winter but in the spring goes into full bloom.  The song may well be about Christ of the Passion and his great love as manifested in his suffering and death, a love that on Easter morning is revealed in full bloom.

His love is quiet lavishness.

Here’s a Quick Question for you:  “Do you recall a time when someone in your life–or God himself–got ‘carried away’ and poured the lavishness of his/her love on you? How did that feel?”  Think about it, and share a thought, a feeling, or a question.

(image: from “The Rose”)

Note:  Click here if you want to watch Westlife’s version of “The Rose.”  Here are the lyrics of the song.


Some say love it is a river
That drowns the tender reed.
Some say love it is a razor
That leaves your soul to bleed.

Some say love it is a hunger
An endless, aching need
I say love it is a flower,
And you it’s only seed.

It’s the heart afraid of breaking
That never learns to dance
It’s the dream afraid of waking
That never takes the chance

It’s the one who won’t be taken,
Who cannot seem to give
And the soul afraid of dying
That never learns to live.

When the night has been too lonely
And the road has been too long.
And you think that love is only
For the lucky and the strong.

Just remember in the winter
Far beneath the bitter snow
Lies the seed that with the sun’s love,
In the spring, becomes the rose

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