Extravagance for God
April 10, 2017
MONDAY of Holy Week
Isaiah 42: 1-7 is the first “Song of the Servant of Yahweh", whom God calls “my chosen one with whom I am well pleased.” But the description is valid for anyone who would do the work of God. As disciples we ponder the characteristics of the person God chooses for his work, to whom he says, “On you I have put my spirit.”
One who will “bring forth justice;”
“not shouting out... in the streets;”
who “will not break the crushed reed;”
who “will not grow faint” before “establishing fair judgment on earth;”
for whose teaching the ends of the earth are “waiting.”
The God who chooses this kind of person is the exultant Creator who “spreads out the heavens,” and “gives breath and spirit to people.” His desire is clear: “I called you for the victory of justice, as a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, and bring out prisoners who live in darkness.” He wants life, light, freedom. God “grasped by the hand” and “formed” his servant. Intimacy. Guidance. Do these points give something to think about?
John 12: 1-11 shows us a contrast. First there is Mary, who like the exultant, profligate Creator in Isaiah, pours out on Jesus’ feet a pound of perfume so expensive it would take a laborer’s whole yearly wage to buy it. Crazy! Extravagant. Passionate. Like God!
Judas makes the called-for objection: “We could have sold it! And given the money to the poor!” If he himself were giving extravagantly to the poor, we could accept that. But what he really shows is a mind that can’t see beyond dollars-and-cents to passionate love. Even if he hadn’t been stealing he would have been horrified. He had a small heart. Passion doesn’t count pennies. Or stop to count anything!
St. Ignatius says we make more spiritual progress through one really generous act than ten run-of-the-mill sacrifices. Why? Because we get a taste of what God is like. We get it by treating God like God — which, paradoxically, is the way to experience how he treats us — with boundless love and unstoppable generosity.
It figures: God is “in-finite” (without fines, the Latin for boundaries). If we try to respond to him without boundaries, we get a hint of what it is like not to have any. St. Ignatius’ prayer was:
Dearest Lord, teach me to be generous.
To serve you as you deserve.
To give and not to count the cost.
To fight and not to heed the wounds.
To toil and not to seek for rest.
To labor and not ask for reward —
Save that of knowing I am doing your will.
We could do worse. The core of both these readings is the picture of a God who exults in giving life and being, and invites us to be the same. “The Lord is my light and my salvation.”
Initiative: Do something extravagant: for someone else or for yourself. Feel God.
 He “accomplishes his mission modestly and quietly, not whipping people into conformity but transforming them interiorly.” Jerome Biblical Quarterly.