Have you ever noticed that when people are doing religious things, they tend to get a bit extravagant? On Palm Sunday, we remembered how people put their cloaks on the donkey & on the road that Jesus travelled on as they shouted “Hosanna!” Matthew says that “the whole city was stirred up.”
As Catholics we we can get a little wild in our religious services: we have processions, carry incense, ring bells, sprinkle holy water, light candles, & put many flowers around the altar area of the church. We have chalices made out of gold & silver when a simple cheap glass would do. We have ceilings in our church that are higher than they need be. We have marble altars when a card table would do. We wear fancy vestments when ordinary clothing would work just as well. Our churches, our cathedral in downtown Cleveland, & esp. St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, are so extravagant, way beyond what we really need; all we come here to do is to pray.
Some criticize this religious excess & tell us to sell it all & give it to the poor. We do need to be more generous to the poor, but remember the woman who took very costly perfume & instead of using one or two drops, she broke the jar & used the whole thing to anoint Jesus before his death? The disciples criticized her, but Jesus said she was showing him her incredible love. People in love spend a lot of money, time & energy planning their wedding because love is not practical nor does it know moderation. Such is the same when we love God. And God could have just sent Jesus to tell us that he loves us & forgive us. But instead, Jesus showed it by enduring incredible suffering. God’s love for us is excessive. Our expressions of love for God must also be extravagant.