One of my favorite pieces of jewelry is a silver bracelet with the word “worthy” stamped on it, which I had custom ordered from a local artisan. Although I don’t usually wear it, I keep it conspicuously displayed in my home, as a reminder that I am worthy of the freedom that I have been promised as a follower of Christ. It’s made out of a recycled silver dinner spoon. Although it used to be a fancy dinner utensil, the silver object is clearly not limited to its former function as vehicle for bringing soup from bowl to mouth. Gently sculpted to fit my wrists, the spoon, now a bracelet, is a treasured reminder that loving hands can transform the limits of the past into a beautiful future.
In the Gospel this weekend, Jesus has a dinner meeting with a local Pharisee. A woman from the neighborhood discovers that Jesus is dining in close proximity, shows up at the Pharisee’s house and rather sensuously cleans Jesus’ feet— much to the disdain of the self-righteous man who is entertaining Jesus in his home. The Pharisee doubts that Jesus is a prophet because, in his experience, no self- respecting holy man would allow such a sinful woman to approach him.
Can you relate to this scene? How often have you allowed your own inner Pharisee to dissuade you from approaching the feet of Christ? How could the woman approach Christ’s feet if she continued to believe that she was owned by her reputation? Do you allow old mistakes to define or refine you? Who would you rather be: a tarnished dinner spoon or an artisanal piece of jewelry?
The woman who washed Christ’s feet chose not to remain complacent or overwhelmed by the complications of her old lifestyle. She was aware that she was worthy of the freedom that she had been promised as a follower of Christ. She was ready to say yes to a more abundant life. She was not defined by the fear of the past. She was refined by the love of God, poured out in her heart, manifest in the presence of Christ.
During the Rite—the sacramental celebration—of Baptism, we make promises for ourselves and promise that we will guide our children to make those promises when they are old enough to make their own response. One form of this dialogue begins:
“Do you reject sin, so as to live in the freedom of God’s children?”
How often do we associate our Catholic faith with freedom? When you, your children, your grandchildren or your friends talk about Catholicism, do you talk about rules, guilt, and a laundry list of things you shouldn’t do—or do you believe that you are a member of a community who encourages you to live your best life in Christ?
Life in South Jersey is not easy. Our cost of living is expensive, and we face many challenges as we provide the best for our children, our parents and ourselves. We may feel as though we could have worked a little harder and then we could have kept that job, or kept that house. We may have committed to a marriage at 19, 20 or 25, but through the years, discovered that it was not part of God’s plan for this commitment to last. Some of these disappointments are beyond our realm of influence. Stop feeling guilty. You are not trapped by your circumstances. You are a member of a community of believers who are here to help you move forward, to find peace and to enjoy the abundant, vibrant future you have been promised as a follower of Christ. Furthermore, your life experience has endowed you with wisdom that can benefit others.
Can you imagine how crowded our churches would be if we truly saw our membership in Christ’s body as a place where we can find answers, solve our problems and free ourselves from patterns of negative behavior? Can you imagine how exciting our Sunday celebrations would be if we stopped approaching them as a routine obligation? Can you imagine how awesome we would feel every week, if we truly celebrated the freedom that every daughter and son of God is worthy to enjoy?
You are worthy. You are loved. You are a miracle of abundance and beauty. You are not limited by your past. You are an heir to a bright and unbelievably vibrant future.