It’s left me puzzled since mid-week: Who tucked a $5 bill under my windshield wiper in the parking lot outside the local Breadco the other day? And why?
Some have suggested that it’s anonymous compensation for a door ding. That’s a possibility, I suppose – but if so, it’s for a ding so small that it can’t be distinguished from the other surface flaws my car has acquired through the years.
In short: unexpected recompense, at least on my part.
Or perhaps it was intended as a sort of pay-it-forward, spread-joy-the-joy kind of gesture. In which case, the donor may be interested to learn that the half-sawbuck made its way that very evening into the free-will-offering canister at Shakespeare In The Park. ‘If we shadows have offended / think but this, and all is mended…’
At any rate, I’ve noticed that five bucks is a curious amount of currency. It’s not enough to make or break my household budget. But it is sufficient to stir my imagination for days at a time. I want to know more. I can’t quite let the mystery go.
That sense of wonder is itself a blessing, wouldn’t you say? When you come to grips with the notion there are things in life you will never understand.
In fact, the attempt to understand sort of gets in the way of the blessing. It steals a bit of the grace available in the moment.
We find a story along those lines in the gospel passage from Luke proclaimed at Mass today. The evangelist reports on a curious encounter:
Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that [Jesus] was at table in the house of the Pharisee. Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.
Clearly, for Luke, it was an amazing scene: Expensive oil, filling the room with an unexpected fragrance. Tears of joy, welling up over a personal experience of God’s tender mercy. But not everyone in the room was affected in the same way.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself,
“If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.”
The Pharisee wants answers. He is focused on what Jesus ought to know. So focused, in fact, that he completely misses the ‘Who’ of the moment. It never occurs to him that he is in the presence of the great ‘I AM’. That he is looking at, and dining with, Love incarnate.
The Pharisee certainly didn’t deserve the encounter. And sometimes, all it takes is a mysteriously placed $5 bill to remind us that none of us do.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.