This morning in Common Prayer, I was introduced to a 4th century follower of Jesus. Her story is compelling and worth contemplating today:
Marcella had an enviable life as the daughter of a prominent Roman family who married a wealthy man. But less than a year after her wedding, her husband died. She was given a chance to continue living in wealth when she was proposed to by the wealthy consul Cerealis. She chose instead to convert her mansion into one of the earliest communities of women, where she and other noblewomen used their riches to help the poor. Marcella said she preferred to “store her money in the stomachs of the needy than hide it in a purse.” In 410, when the Goths invaded Rome, they broke into Marcella’s home. When they demanded money, she calmly responded that she had no riches because she had given all to the poor. Though she was an elderly woman, they beat and tortured her mercilessly. Her attackers were eventually shamed by her piety and she was released, but she died within a short time.
Marcella of Rome wrote, “By heaven’s grace, captivity has found me a poor woman, not made me one. Now I shall go in want of daily bread, but I shall not feel hunger since I am full of Christ.”
Lord, some of us have found wealth in this world, while others of us are left wanting. But as we stand before you, we are all paupers save for your grace and love. Remind us that our true wealth is your gift of a sustainable way of life for all. Amen.