Filling our city with the fragrance of the Gospel of Life

Clive Christian No. 1 Perfume
Imperial Majesty Edition
Imagine taking a whole bottle of  Clive Christian No. 1, and pouring it all over someone's feet.  You probably wouldn't dab as little as a drop of it on your own feet.  Clive Christian No. 1 is the world's most expensive perfume, with a price tag of over $200 000 per bottle.  At that price, most people would say that's a waste.  What an inefficient way to spend money. What good would it do?
Last week as I was sidewalk counselling on Bank street,  a passerby, a young woman, visibly angered, took the brochure I offered her and proceeded to tear it up, saying, "Why don't you get a REAL job and make yourself useful".

My outward reaction was as meek and humble as I could make it. I insisted that we were offering real help to women as I picked up the torn up brochure she had just thrown on the ground and put it in the garbage bin. 

Inwardly, though, I struggled.  She had hit a sore spot.  "Why don't you make yourself useful" -- ouch!  -- that hurt.  It hurt because on that day, a rainy, cold and windy day, my efforts seemed to amount to nothing, as  I had to watch the endless spectacle of child after child being brought to the killing chamber while my efforts to reach out to their mothers was met with indifference. On that morning, I was battling with a sense of futility. 

As I pondered her words and their effect on me, I was reminded of an experience my husband and I had while praying during the first 40 Days for Life campaign in Ottawa, back in the fall of 2008.  It was a Friday night, close to midnight.  A group of revellers were walking by,  in transit between two night-clubs, when they stopped to speak to us, curious to find out we were praying on the street at that time of day. 

One of them said "I agree with your position, but I think you're going about it the wrong way.  Standing here in the middle of the night, praying is not going to get you results.  You need to do something that will give you more bang for your buck".  That seems sensible enough, but it's wrong-headed.  It's the cult of efficiency.

The cult of efficiency overcome by the fragrance of the Gospel of Life

John-Paul II in Evangelium Vitae (section 12) explains the source of the culture of death as being "an idea of society excessively concerned with efficiency."  He goes on to say that it is "a war of the powerful against the weak. (...) A person who, because of illness, handicap or, more simply, just by existing, compromises the well-being or life-style of those who are more favoured tends to be looked upon as an enemy to be resisted or eliminated."

Countering the culture of death and the cult of efficiency requires sacrifice, lavish self-sacrifice.  We must be like Mary, the sister of Lazarus,  who poured a whole jar of expensive perfume on Jesus' feet, filling the house with its fragrance. It wasn't Clive Christian No. 1, but she did use the costliest and purest she could find. 

Spending our time (a precious commodity in our busy society) praying at Ground Zero is like pouring perfume on Jesus' feet. He did say "what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me" (Mt 25:45)

The Beatitudes   are a lesson in inefficiency

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
  • Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land. 
  • Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted. 
  • Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill. 
  • Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. 
  • Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God. 
  • Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. 
  • Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  

That's what we do when we go to Ground Zero

  • We sacrifice our own power, our own strength by praying to God, acknowledging his infinite power and strength. 
  • We give a voice to the powerless, the weakest among us,  by meekly standing up in their defence. 
  • We mourn for those whose human dignity has been violated -- our tears like perfume on the feet of Jesus. 
  • We publicly denounce the injustice of the culture of death. 
  • We offer mercy to those who are caught up in this evil. 
  • We uphold a vision of purity and bring God's presence in the public square. 
  • We renounce any use of violence (physical or verbal) to achieve our means. 
  • We are willing to endure the insults heaped upon us for defending the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters. 
It is not the whole solution, it is not the only means of combating the culture of death, but it is necessary. Someone has to stand up to denounce the killing and to break the stranglehold that indifference and the cult of efficiency has on our fellow citizens. Someone has to show that these little ones are worth the time we spend there, time seemingly wasted from a human point of view, but in the eternal scheme of things, infinitely precious.
Most importantly, we are there to pray, thereby giving God his due in a world that refuses to acknowledge Him.

Mary spent a year's wages on Jesus.  That's 8760 hours.  Would you be willing to spend one hour? Let us not be distracted by the Judases who complain that we could be more efficient with our time and resources (i.e. sell the perfume for 300 denarii -- a year's wages in New Testament times) for we don't necessarily see the fruits of our efforts. Many of those fruits are spiritual and probably delayed in time. Spiritual things tend to take longer to come to fruition.
Going to Ground Zero is not an option, it is a duty.  We cannot be content with just showing up at the March for Life once a year.  That is like a Christian only going to church at Christmas. It just doesn't cut it. 

Every generation of Christians has had to be counter-cultural where the culture is most sinful.  This is where the rubber hits the road, where the going gets toughest.  Will we be tough enough to get going?
God is calling us to this work.  He is calling some of us to specific tasks in this work.  May we respond generously, with a full jar of perfume and may it fill our city with the fragrance of the Gospel of Life.