In the 1978 American musical film, Grease, actress Olivia Newton John (Sandy) intoned the lyrics “I’m hopelessly devoted to you.” Through her words, she really meant that her affection and devotion for her boyfriend, Danny (John Travolta), were unchangeable.
Now the word, devotion, describes feelings of strong love or loyalty whereas the word, devout, characterizes a person who is sincere or dedicated to their religion. For instance, a devout Catholic is one with an unending faith in God, attends Mass every Sunday, and follows all the practices of his or her faith. (YourDictionary.com) For the purpose of this brief essay, I have cited my source so as not to plagiarize, but for clarification of terms, as well. In doing so, I wonder: On this side of heaven, how many of us can truly say that we are devout?
In his Introduction to the Devout Life (pp. 1-2), St. Francis de Sales has provided us with examples of those who consider themselves as devout.
He that is addicted to fasting thinks himself very devout if he fasts, even though his heart be at the same time full of rancor; and scrupling to moisten his tongue with wine, or even with water, through sobriety, he makes no difficulty of drinking deep of his neighbor’s blood by detraction and calumny. Another accounts himself devout if he recites daily a multiplicity of prayers, though he immediately afterwards utters the most disagreeable, arrogant, and injurious words amongst his domestics and neighbors. Another cheerfully draws alms out of his purse to relieve the poor, but cannot draw meekness out of his heart to forgive his enemies. Another readily forgives his enemies, but by some means, never satisfies his creditors but by constraint. These are esteemed devout, when, in reality, they are by no means so.
In the Gospel of John (12:1-11), we read the story of Jesus arriving in Bethany six days before the Passover. At dinner, we are told that while Martha served, Lazarus reclined at table with Jesus. At a certain point, with the full attention of Judas the Iscariot, Mary “took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair.” In witnessing this, Judas pipes up and asks why the oil was used in such a manner when it could have been sold for three-hundred days’ wages and given to the poor. But Jesus tells him: “Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”
In reference to devotion, Mary’s actions speak to her great love of Jesus. Truly, Jesus was her Lord and Savior! As such, to serve and please God became her mission and vocation. For Judas, however, the same cannot be said. For we know that in short time, thirty pieces of silver was the price for which he would betray Jesus. So much for devotion.
In our day, we should ask ourselves this simple question: Where is our devotion? Is it overly oriented to the present or to that which has eternal significance?