Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

"She's done what she could."

When Jesus was in Bethany reclining at table in the house of Simon the leper, a woman entered carrying an alabaster jar of perfume made from expensive aromatic nard. Breaking the jar, she began to pour the perfume on Jesus' head. Some were saying to themselves indignantly: What is the point of this extravagant waste of perfume? It could have been sold for over three hundred silver pieces and the money given to the poor. They were infuriated at her. But Jesus said: Let her alone. Why do you criticize her? She has done me a kindness. The poor you will always have with you and you can be generous to them whenever you wish, but you will not always have me. She had done what she could. By perfuming my body she is anticipating its preparation for burial. I assure you, wherever the good news is proclaimed throughout the world, what she has done will be told in her memory. (Mark 14: 3-9)

Let's leave this woman un-named. When we force a name on a biblical character we've distracted ourselves and make the story solely about that person rather than Jesus and ourselves. 

When I was a young boy my mother had one tiny bottle of expensive perfume on her dressing table. It lasted her a very long time as she used it so sparingly, drop by drop. And here is this gospel-woman pouring a whole bottle over Jesus' head. Another gospel place says the jar contained a litre of perfume! Indeed, what extravagance. What love she felt for Jesus! 

Jesus seems to know that when he dies it will be too late in the day and the work-forbidding Sabbath will have begun, preventing the women from anointing his body properly. He allows this woman to perform that act of anointing-love in advance. 

But the men in the room get all fussed about it. They probably can't handle the depth of her extravagant love and pull out the excuse of needing to serve the poor. The feminine insight into Jesus is so beautiful. I often think men (especially clerical men) have much to learn from women in this regard. 

Jesus' response to the men is great, saying in effect: Oh calm down. Get off her back." He acknowledges her kindness, announcing: She has done what she could. What lovely words. He speaks about you too - and me!

Lots of people suffer terrible guilt fearing they didn't do enough: didn't give enough, didn't sacrifice enough, didn't think enough, didn't suffer enough (that's a big one, isn't it?) 

Sometimes it's true and we should be aware of that, but we must be careful not to spend our whole life looking back at a lifetime of regrets. At other times, I didn't do what I could or I didn't do enough is simply not true. Jesus understands, and he is clearly happy and grateful for when we have simply done, like this loving woman, what we could. 

And what about today and tomorrow?
  • I can't solve world hunger, but I can share some of what I have.
  • I can't stop all the wars, but I can do what I can to establish reconciliation and peace in my own micro-world.
  • I can't know everything that might be known, but I can do what I can to be a reader and a learner and stretch my mind and get free of old, wrong-headed, prejudiced  or useless thinking.
  • I can't reform the whole Church but I can do what I can to practice the Works of Mercy and get a new heart and new spirit.
  • I can't take in all the world's children but I can help a few who are far away in the worst circumstances.
  • I can't heal all the suffering and the tears, but I can smile at the next person I meet.
Clearly in reading this gospel we see that nothing is lost on Jesus. 


  1. You taught me to only worry about today... Handle TOMMOROW ... TOMMOROW.... And stop looking back at yesterday... Constant looking back will cause you to trip and fall... Excellent advice.... May you have a Blessed Easter... Think of you daily... Miss your sermons and advice!

  2. Thank you Father. This is just what we needed today. You really help us to understand the love that Jesus shows to us. We must do what we can do because we want to and we can. And He accepts even the littlest act if it is given wholly with love.

  3. Michael DaschnerApril 4, 2015 at 3:05 PM

    Thank you for this wonderful post to lead us to Easter Sunday and the Risen Lord! The message here is so much the belief of our small, but growing community. Christians who are finding their way back to worshiping God with others and knowing that He accepts us even in our sinful thought and actions. We try our best, but cannot as humans be perfect. Amen to God's love.

  4. These posts do create a new spirit in me every time I read them. Another step toward healing the spirit. Grateful.

  5. Father Stephen, you bring light to my day.