My alabaster jar is full of popcorn shrimp
October 29, 2011 5 Comments
No, that’s not from a bad Hungarian-English dictionary. It’s from Matthew 26, the woman with the alabaster jar.
In the Matt 26 story of the woman with the alabaster jar, we have Jesus (duh), the woman (more duh), the host Simon the Leper (oh yeah, forgot about him), and Judas. The woman gives at an embarrassing level, Jesus accepts humbly, Judas criticizes, and Simon…is silent.
I have to wonder what’s going through the head of the healed host here. Is he thinking, “What is she doing? It doesn’t make sense,” or, “Wow, that’s a really nice thing to do. Jesus smells way better now. But I could never do something like that.”
Generosity isn’t an “either-or” proposition, but rather a “both-and.” Who’s to say the woman with the alabaster jar hadn’t already given all her other possessions to the poor and was saving the very best to give directly in the service of all that which is good and beautiful? Even if she hadn’t, who’s to say that giving up her ointment wasn’t the first, not the last, thing she was going to give?
If there were more people giving generously, both to the poor and just for the halibut, then generosity would seem more, well, normal. We’d be less likely to see someone else’s heroism and say, “I could never do that!”. If generous giving were practiced widely, it wouldn’t seem so heroic–so impossible. We’d see generosity and say, “If she of all people can do that, then so can I.”
We practice first in small ways, the more meaningful the better. That’s why we say we “give up” meat on Fridays. Food that didn’t have to bleed for us is a living metaphor for penance. We can’t undo the harm we’ve done to Christ, the living bread, and his creation, but we can show Jesus and ourselves from generous hearts that we wish, not just with our thoughts but with our choices, that we had done differently. And so we dine differently.
The Judases will still seek to invalidate our gifts and call them misplaced. That’s okay. They just don’t know any better. Maybe once the healed lepers of the world start saying, “Hey, we can give, too,” that will soften even the hardest, most judgmental of hearts.
So give. Just for the halibut.