You own something of great worth. Mary had her alabaster flask of pure nard, but you have something even more valuable.
Mary’s treasure was physical and therefore of calculable worth: 300 denarii, or 300 days’ wages. In contemporary terms, Mary’s nard was worth tens of thousands of dollars. Since a living wage for most people throughout history has been only enough to live on, with nothing left over, Mary’s treasure was indeed of great value.
But your treasure is spiritual and therefore of incalculable worth. Unfortunately, due to the visible nature of physical realities and the invisible nature of spiritual realities, most of us esteem our physical treasure of greater value than our spiritual treasure. We fret about the scarcity of material goods and worry about whether we have enough treasure to seek our life’s ambitions. Yet we pay little attention to the account of our spiritual treasure.
Having been blessed with greater riches than any culture before us, our ability to manage our treasure has been impoverished to an equally great degree. Having been given more than we need by God, we spend more than we’ve been given.
In spite of this, we are still better stewards of our material treasure than we are of our spiritual treasure.
And what is this spiritual treasure of which I speak? It is you, or, more precisely, Christ in you. The entirety of your life is a gift and treasure beyond compare; this gift has been enriched immeasurably by the presence of Christ in us. We have great treasure in our earthen vessels.
You may remember the story of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. In January of 1947, a Bedouin boy named Juma had a small crisis. Some of his goats were climbing too high up the cliffs near the shore of the Dead Sea. Juma chose to climb the face of the cliff to bring his goats back. After spying two openings into some of the thousands of caves nearby, he threw a rock into one of the openings. To his surprise, the rock made a cracking sound that hinted at treasure hidden in those remote caves. When he called to his two cousins, they also climbed up and were caught up in the intrigue of secret treasure.
The youngest of the three, Muhammed, was most dazzled by the vision of the treasure and rose early the next day to seek the treasure. Once inside the cave, he saw that the floor was covered with debris, including broken pottery, which could be traced to a number of narrow jars along the cave’s wall. Frantically, Muhammed opened each earthen jar, but no treasure of gold such as that found in his head was discovered. All he found was a few bundles wrapped in cloth and greenish with age. He returned to his cousins and gave the sad news that there was no treasure after all. All that he had discovered, after all, was the Dead Sea Scrolls, one of the supreme archeological discoveries of the ages and one which gave us biblical manuscripts 1000 years older than many of the ones we previously had.
Our lives are like the story of the Dead Sea Scrolls. We have an immense treasure in ordinary, earthen vessels, and we say to ourselves, “Move along: nothing to see here.”
Mary anointed Jesus’ body because she knew both the value of Jesus and the value of her treasure. We, however, don’t seem to know the value of Jesus Christ as either His Body, the Church, or as He tabernacles with each Christian member of that Body. The truth is that Mary’s extravagant expenditure on her Lord is a model for our lives, but for it to act as a model we must rightly value things as she did.
If Jesus Christ were physically standing before you this minute, I don’t doubt that you would be willing to spend anything to honor and adore Him. The reason, therefore, that we don’t spend ourselves on Jesus Christ in this world is because we don’t really believe that the Church is really His Body or that He really lives in us through the Holy Spirit.
The Bible is clear: the Church is the Body of Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ is hidden in these earthen vessels of our bodies and lives. If you truly believe this, then I say it’s time for a little extravagance! It’s time to rightly value and honor Jesus Christ, who tells us that He is present to us through His Body and through His Spirit in that Body.
If you truly believe this, what expense should you spare to minister to that Body of Christ among us? We believe that if we spend ourselves on behalf of the Church, God’s people, that we’ll be impoverished as a result. “If I keep doing for others, there will be nothing left for me.” And yet it is a spiritual truth that the more you spend yourself on Christ, the more of your true self, which is Christ in you, you become.
Each of you has a treasure within you that makes Midas look like Cinderella. But there’s a catch. Your treasure has a curious property to it: it is only valuable if you activate it and use it. If you keep your treasure locked up in your earthen vessel, it will sit there like the Dead Sea Scrolls, useless to anyone for 2000 years. If you refuse to use your treasure, it will expire worthless, like a lottery ticket that you didn’t bother to redeem.
The Church, which is the people of God, is the Body of Christ. Practically speaking, this mostly means the people at your local church, although it also includes all Christians. They are to you like the body of Jesus to Mary. In fact, we could make an SAT-like analogy out of this:
Mary’s treasure: Jesus’ body
your treasure: the Church
How did Mary spend her treasure, and how are you going to spend your treasure? What opportunities might you find to extravagantly anoint Jesus Christ this week, if you look for them? More importantly, will you spend the only treasure, Christ in you, that grows greater the more you spend it?
The next time an opportunity arises for you to anoint Jesus Christ by serving His Body, take it immediately!
Prayer: O Jesus, our Shepherd who didst lay down thy life for the sheep and dost every nourish them with the spiritual food of thy most precious Body and Blood: Quicken, we pray thee, the hearts of those whom thou hast called, that they may joyfully spend and be spent in ministering to the salvation of all mankind, to thine eternal praise and glory; who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen. (Cuddeston Office College Book)
Points for Meditation:
1. What specific treasures has God given you that you might use on His Son? These might include the traditional 3 T’s: time, talent, and treasure (money).
2. What is your practical view of the Church and its relationship to Jesus Christ?
3. What is your practical view of Christ in you? How do you really see yourself most of the time?
Resolution: I resolve to spend some time today considering the worth of Christ in me, as well as the purposes He has for this treasure.
© 2014 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Category: Give Us This Day