Wednesday, March 31, 2010

An Example of Love Wthout Pretence.

In the liturgy of Holy Week we had the chance to understand the motivation of a number of characters that appear in the Gospel stories. Some were not examples to imitate. Others like Mary of Bethany did something extraordinary; she was reprimanded by Judas but accepted by our Lord.

What is, and is not, worthy of being imitated? An article in a Catholic newspaper recently addressed this question by describing a small child who wanted more than anything else in the world to be pretty. Whatever someone said was pretty she would imitate. If someone had a pretty hair permanent she would spend the whole day putting her hair up with pencils. If someone said that a short dress was pretty she would cut her dress. A person with makeup that was considered pretty would get her to spend all day using her mother's make up on her face.
Once when she heard that a mother was the most beautiful thing in the world, she ran to her mother and told her that she wanted to be a mother. The mother, smiling, asked her why she wanted to be a mother so early? The child said that a mother was the most beautiful thing in the world, so she wanted to be a mother. The mother, knowing of her daughter's recent habits, answered that she does not have a hair permanent, does not use makeup, and does not wear a short dress. The child answered: "How can you be the most beautiful in the world?" The mother, taking her child in her arms, told her that it was because she loved her so much.

This was the writer's way of introducing his belief that too many of us are like this child, doing what we know others will like and what others like to see. When a child acts in this way we can understand. When grownups do the same, his response was clear, we need to be concerned.

It is a fact that many of us only behave in ways we think others will approve. As a result, we become locked into an unhealthy concern with our exterior selves, the pretence becoming at times so real to us that we mistake the show for the self we really are. When others do not see me as I see myself, how do I react? Do I become anxious and upset? What is beautiful is to be the self we were meant to be, to express this in the way we act and speak, and to love ourselves for being who we are. It is with this attitude that we will be open to loving others, and seeing others as valued as we see ourselves. It is the naked Jesus hanging on the Cross that shows us the way to be.

In Monday's Gospel it was Mary who was the one without pretence, and conscious only of Jesus. It was Judas with the pretence. In our own lives it is not always easy to be truly ourselves, and willing to accept the problems that this may bring into our lives.

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