Three of the four of us are sick and a bit down this weekend (Isaac the exception so far) and I don't feel like writing a long post today, but I'll try to cover a couple of things.
First off, Thomas' book contest entry was superb. Po Bronson has a terrific way of collecting interesting stories from people and them writing them up in such a way as to make them come alive and give plenty of food for thought. This was true in What Should I Do With My Life, and remains the case in his latest, Why Do I Love These People. The latter volume examines stories about family dynamics. Some of the stories are told in such a way that I would challenge anyone to read them without crying. My only criticism of the book was that the last couple of stories weren't as good as the rest, so there was a a bit of a sense of let-down. Still, a fine book all around.
Other item for today was a thought from Sunday School. We talked about the story of Mary breaking the bottle of perfume to annount Jesus. During the discussion I kept asking myself what purpose the story had within the gospel accounts. In both Mark and John it takes place just before Jesus's betrayal framed by comments about peope wanting to put Jesus to death. The only conclusion I could draw was the that bottle was meant by the gospel writers to serve as a symbol of Jesus life and body. The story is followed by the Last Supper where Jesus draws attention to the sacrificial nature of his body himself, but the story of the bottle of perfume seems to draw attention to the wastefulness of the sacrifice. Judas (and other disciples in the one account) mention how the bottle could have benefitted the poor. Earlier in his ministry, this is what Jesus used his power for--to benefit the poor, the hungry and the sick. But now is the time when the full sacrifice is to be made.
Thinking about this made me think immediately about how unpragmatic christian doctrine often can be. While we are often called to minister to the poor when we can, that is only done in service to the gospel. We do not completely devote ourselves to the good of other people, but to the service of God, following in Jesus example. Often this will mean sqandering resources which could have been used better. I can think of no more poignant example than that of Endo's priest in Silence who must choose between saving the lives of Japanese converts and honoring Jesus through refusing to spit and trample on an image. The temptation to think that we have the power to do great good in the world is a very strong one.