Last week I found lessons for us in the life of Zacchaeus. Because I’m so engrossed in the people of the New Testament after writing that book about them, this week I’m reflecting on another one, Salome, to see what she can teach us as we near the season of Lent. Salome was the mother of the apostles James and John. Since John is reputed to be about nineteen when he followed Jesus, Salome was likely in her thirties when she decided to follow him too. Lesson one: Give up things to draw closer to Jesus. Sure, James and John left their boats and nets, but Salome left her husband, Zebedee, and her house to wander the roads with Jesus. She was so taken with this new preacher that she wanted to be with him every day. (Of course, this way she could also be with her sons!) What can we give up this Lent in order to be with Jesus? A few minutes of sleep, rising early for morning prayers? Time in front of the TV or computer in order to go to Mass and receive Jesus in Communion? Reading novels so instead we have time to spend with Jesus as he comes in the distressing guise of the poor?
Lesson two: Salome is named in the Gospel as one of the women who provided for Jesus and the apostles. This implies that the women cooked the meals, washed their clothes, and supported them financially. Hopefully Zebedee didn’t mind. We might serve our family members with renewed zeal. We might also increase the amount we give to our church each week. Almsgiving is one of the three pillars of Lent. We have plenty of opportunities to donate to help the disadvantaged.
Lesson three: James and John asked Jesus for the highest places in heaven. But in Matthew’s Gospel it’s Salome who asked this on behalf of her sons. Scripture scholars say that Matthew gave us this “alternative fact” so as not to tarnish the reputation of two Church leaders. In effect, Salome is portrayed as the ambitious person, the pushy Jewish mother. (Maybe this was her idea to protect her sons.) Sometimes we may be asked to take the fall for someone else to protect them. It may happen this Lent. How graciously can we do it? I recall that someone who was helping me change my mattress cover tore it. I let the cantankerous sister in charge of linens assume that I had done it. Another time on an excursion an elderly sister in the van full of sisters told me she needed to make a stop but was too shy to ask. So I declared that I needed to stop. I’m sure you’ve done similar things.
Lesson four: Salome is named as one of the women who loyally stood at the cross enduring the gruesome and heartbreaking scene. Her son John was there, but not James or any of the other apostles. Lent is the time to focus on the suffering and death of Jesus. We can be there for extra Masses, where his sacrifice is re-presented. We can be there for the Good Friday services and the Stations of the Cross. We can also be with someone, family member or not, who is suffering and support them by our presence and prayers. This is not easy. Neither was standing at the foot of the cross.
Lesson five: In Mark’s Gospel, the first one written, Salome is one of three women who brought spices to the tomb Easter morning to anoint the body of Jesus. They are the first to hear the good news—from an angel no less—that Jesus was risen. Constant devotion and love will be rewarded in the end. Someday, sooner or later, we too will behold the risen Lord.
What have you done during Lent in the past to deepen your relationship with Jesus? What will you do this year?
TWO LENTEN BOOK REVIEWS
Heidi Hess Saxton Servant Books (Franciscan Media) $12.99
Using the daily readings as a springboard, Saxon has created a set of meditations that I found fascinating. A short quotation from one of the Scripture readings of the day is given. Then based on that main idea, a reflection unfolds that weaves together various strands:
- Short quotations from Mother Teresa, such as “Be faithful in little things, for in them lies our strength” and longer ones from her writing, such as the litany of who God is for her.
- Quotations from people about Mother Teresa.
- Quotations from others, even the eight levels of giving from the Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides.
- Accounts of events from the lives of Mother Teresa and her Sisters. Some of these stories were familiar to me, but it was good to refresh them.
- Personal narratives of the author that lent interest to the subject.
- Inspiring observations that have power to touch hearts and change lives.
After each reflection several questions help the readers ponder how the key message of the day has been borne out in their lives and how they could apply it in the future. These are followed by a prayer to God, but each one ends with the invocation “St. Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us!
I think that St. Teresa, who cared for the unborn, the marginalized, and the disadvantaged, would be pleased that the Gospel values she preached through her life are being passed on through this book today, when we need to hear them more than ever. As she exhorted, may we each try to make our lives something beautiful for God—like she did.
Diane M. Houdek Franciscan Media $14.99
This companion book for the weeks of Lent is an opportunity to delve into and mull over some of the wisdom of Pope Francis. Each day begins with a lengthy passage from one of his talks that is linked to the readings of the day’s Mass. We hear Pope Francis deliver some aspect of the Gospel in his simple, unique way. This is followed by “Taking the Word to Heart,” a down-to-earth, practical reflection on what Pope Francis said. It offers food for thought like Lent is “not about what we do, it’s about what God does.”
Next there is “Bringing the Word to Life,” an application of the passage to our live that day. For example, because Pope Francis focuses on gossip as a trickle that might grow to a tidal wave, the suggested practice is be aware of opportunities to say no to gossip for a few days and keep track of them by a paper tally, a counting app, or moving an item from one pocket to another.
The section concludes with “Pope Francis Prays.” This is either a short prayer of pope or a topic he suggests we pray about, for example, “Let us ask for the grace that our hearts not harden . . . .”
Anyone admirer of Pope Francis who wishes to have a collection of his words will treasure this book. An added advantage is that it enables us to walk with him on our Lenten journey.