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Always Have the Poor

April 6, 2020

“Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.'” John 12:7-8

Day 22 brings us to the Monday in Holy Week. As we follow John’s narration of the gospel, this is where things begin to go off the rails. Or according to plan, from God’s point of view. Jesus has brought Lazarus back from the dead, and that’s the last nail in the coffin for Jesus. The religious leaders know that you can’t allow such powerful love to be at work in the world. They’d be out of business! No, Jesus must die.

Mary, the sister of Lazarus, takes a pound of perfume and anoints Jesus’ feet, preparing him for burial in an act of adoration. This perfume must have represented most of the family wealth, but Jesus, on the way to his cross, is worthy of the deed.

Judas sees it differently, believing they should have sold it and given the money to the poor, although our narrator is quick to point out that Judas didn’t give a damn about the poor. Be that at is may, Jesus response is that there’s only a short time be with Jesus, while the poor will be around forever.

There have always been those who think Jesus meant, “There will be poor people forever, so why bother helping them?” Nothing could be further from the truth. In the days before his death, while Jesus of Nazareth was present with them on earth, the best way to worship was to help him prepare for death, the death that would bring salvation to all people. Including, especially, the poor.

On the other side of Jesus’ resurrection, we show our adoration to God through acts of service and love for our neighbor. Including, especially, the poor.

If we will always have the poor, the poor are aways to have us. Jesus gives us to the poor so that we can find ways to pour out our treasures for their sake. We worship Jesus by joining ourselves to the cause of those who are suffering.

During Holy Week this year, as we walk with Jesus to Calvary, let us also be on the lookout for how we can serve the poor in our midst. This should not be hard. The economy teeters and unemployment soars. We’re discovering what happens to a nation after it has mostly dismantled its safety net. Who could have seen it coming? Well, anyone with eyes, but that’s a story for another day.

For today, since we can’t fix everything right away, let us look for how we can serve, how we can give. I promise you that your favorite charitable organizations are trying to meet ever-growing needs with ever-shrinking resources as they respond to the pandemic. If you are able, keep giving to your local food pantry, shelter, social service provider, ministry organization, whatever. If you need suggestions, let me know and I’ll tell you some of my favorites.

After all, the poor always have us. Jesus gave us to them, and this is no time to leave them on their own.

Blessings to you on this Monday in Holy Week. May it be a week of adoration of the crucified Christ and service done in his name.

Be well, friends. You are loved.

“O God, you Son chose the path which led to pain before joy and the cross before glory. Plant his cross in our hearts, so that in its power and love we may come at last to joy and glory; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (Lutheran Book of Worship, p. 19)

The image in this post is Mary Magdalene Anointing Christ’s Feet in the House of Simon the Pharisee, by Artus Wolffort, early seventeenth century (public domain). Of course, this isn’t quite the same story, but it’s a good image nonetheless.

From → COVID-19, Lent/Easter

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