Monday of Holy Week
It was Judas who registered the only protest in the Gospels against what seemed to be concern for “the poor” in the face of apparent luxury, for “costly perfumed oil” was seemingly being squandered in anointing Jesus. The Gospel is clear that Judas did not care for the poor, but was himself a lover of money, a thief.
Still, Jesus’ answer is challenging to all: “You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” This is a very mysterious saying, but certainly one meaning is that God and the things of God take priority to any earthly concern, and though “man is the way to God,” still, God has primacy in that relation.
Perhaps another question to ask is: what do we mean when we say: “the poor”? Who are “the poor” for whom we should be concerned? Though material poverty can be extreme, and we have a weighty responsibility to share what we have with the needy, is there not a poverty of soul, a powerlessness in the face of the powers of this world, that can be even more crushing than material want? Perhaps the two are not unrelated.
After all, the way to follow Christ as He commands is to “give what you have to the poor” and then to follow Him – into that Kingdom of God which, in Him, is breaking into this world. And so in following Him, poverty itself becomes key: the heart of His poverty is worldly powerlessness. And that might also include being careful of the sort of rhetoric about tending to “the poor” that Judas used against the poor and powerless man Jesus in a moment of great generosity and glory, sharing in the richness of God.