A young Mum, Linda was having ‘one of those days’ The baby was constantly crying, the toddler was fractious, visitors were arriving the next day and the loo was clogged!
The car broke down on the way back from the supermarket, and the frozen food she had bought was rapidly melting.
By the time she got home, Linda was frazzled and in a hurry to get something on the table for dinner. Deciding on Cream of Mushroom soup, she grabbed a can opener, cranked open the can, then remembered she had forgotten to buy milk. Out went the soup idea. Putting the can aside, she went to plan B, which was leftover baked beans. Opening the Tupperware container that had been in the fridge, Linda discovered her next surprise. The baked beans were the colour of caterpillars. Really frustrated now, she decided on a menu that was as foolproof as it was nutrition-free: burgers and chips. Only there weren’t any chips – she’s forgotten to buy them… crisps would have to do. Taking a brand new bag of crisps from the cupboard, Linda grabbed the cellophane and gave a hearty pull. The bag did not open. She tried again. Still, nothing happened. Linda took a deep breath, and gave the bag a hefty wrestle. With a loud pop, the cellophane suddenly gave way, ripping wide open from top to bottom. Crisps flew sky high. Linda was left holding the empty bag. This was the final straw. She raised her face to the ceiling and let out a blood-curdling scream. “I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!”
Jack, Linda’s husband, arriving home from work, heard her uncharacteristic scream, and came to kitchen doorway, where he surveyed the damage: an opened can of soup, melting groceries, mouldy baked beans, and one quivering wife standing ankle deep in potato crisps. So Jack did the most helpful thing he could think of at the moment. He took a flying leap, landing flat-footed in the pile of crisps. And then he began to stomp and dance and twirl, grinding them into floor.
Linda stared. She fumed. But pretty soon she had to work hard to stifle a smile. Eventually she laughed. And finally she decided to join him. She took a leap onto the crips and began dancing on them.
Jack’s response was not exactly the one Linda had been looking for. But it was just what she needed. She didn’t need a cleanup crew with mops and brooms as much as an attitude adjustment, and the laughter from her husband’s unorthodox potato crisp dance did just that.
Sometimes foolishness is more importance and has more lasting significance what those things that are practical and logical.
April Fool’s Day originated in France in 1564 when the Julian calendar was dropped, and the Gregorian calendar adopted. This meant that New Year’s Day was switched from 25 March to 1 January. Of course, it took a while for the change to take hold, because there was a long tradition of having a week-long celebration after March 25th – and people were not prepared to give up a week of partying without a fight! But as more and more people followed the new tradition of January 1st as New Year’s Day, those who were still celebrating the old New Year’s celebrations were called “April Fools” – 1st April being the last day of the festivity.
What a wonderful story – a day that celebrates people who would not stop partying just because the rest of the world was doing the proper, logical thing! And what a marvellous coincidence that this years April Fool’s day coincides with our reading of Mary’s lavish, extravagant and utterly foolish gift to Jesus. She breaks open an alabaster jar – itself valuable – and pours perfumed oil – Nard – over Jesus’ feet, wiping them dry with her hair. This gift of Nard – what an extravagantly foolish gift, worth a whole year’s wages for an ordinary working person.
At a women’s retreat a little while ago this passage was given for prayer. When the group gathered for discussion, one of the older women (recently turned 80) admitted, “I always thought she used lard!” Apart from being funny, how wonderful that this woman could be free enough to appear so disarmingly foolish. The same type of genuine, innocent foolishness that would give such a valuable gift of love as Mary did to Jesus.
Jesus appreciates this “beautiful thing” she has done for him, understanding it both as an expression of her deeply felt affection for him, as well as a symbolic preparation for his death.
But not everyone present sees things his way. Judas, supported by the other disciples in Matthew’s version, protests this “wasteful” and foolish act. Such a valuable gift could have been used in much more sensible ways.
But who is the fool here? Is it really Mary, who the disciples consider to be ridiculously irresponsible? If so, isn’t her’s a worthy foolishness? One we should try to emulate? What about the foolishness of Judas, who can only see the practical applications of such a gift? Mary has seen that God is doing a new thing in Jesus, that he offers a new way of loving that is open and generous. Judas cannot see that. He wants to continue living in the old way – so he too is a fool. But he is not the April Fool who celebrates life joyously and passionately despite the logic of the situation. He is the sad fool who is denying life. He is the tragic fool who cannot show love and passion for Jesus while he is still with him. Did this foolish symbolic action of Mary’s do anything worthwhile?
Apparently, it did for Jesus! Those who know the exact price of things, as Judas did, often do not know the true cost or value of anything.” Mary, in her foolishness, knew the true value of Jesus – so even the most extravagant gift was not too costly for him.
May we all be, in our own way, fools for Christ – and remembering our opening story – especially when the chips are down!