Daily Gospel Reflection - 24 August 2011
Mark 14.1-11 CEB: It was two days before Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and legal experts through cunning tricks were searching for a way to arrest Jesus and kill him. But they agreed that it shouldn’t happen during the festival; otherwise, there would be an uproar among the people.
Jesus was at Bethany visiting the house of Simon, who had a skin disease. During dinner, a woman came in with a vase made of alabaster and containing very expensive perfume of pure nard. She broke open the vase and poured the perfume on his head. Some grew angry. They said to each other, “Why waste the perfume? This perfume could have been sold for almost a year’s pay and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her.
Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you make trouble for her? She has done a good thing for me. You always have the poor with you; and whenever you want, you can do something good for them. But you won’t always have me. She has done what she could. She has anointed my body ahead of time for burial. I tell you the truth that, wherever in the whole world the good news is announced, what she’s done will also be told in memory of her.”
Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to give Jesus up to them. When they heard it, they were delighted and promised to give him money. So he started looking for an opportunity to turn him in.
It seems that whenever one talks about helping the poor, this verse is brought up. I always feel like it’s used to say that we don’t have to help the poor. ‘Since the poor is always here, let someone else deal with them.’ That’s the feeling I get, anyway.
Also, since the poor are ‘always’ here, the idea that God’s dream of reconciliation looks to be only that - a dream. But I don’t think that either of these options are what Jesus intended. I believe it’s a classic case of taking a passage out of context to prove a pretext.
The reference to the poor in either context (then or now) misses the point. The story starts and stops with the plot of the chief priests, legal experts, and Judas Iscariot. The chief priests and legal experts were trying to find a way to arrest and kill Jesus. They found it in Judas. He would be the one who laid Jesus at their feet, so to speak.
In the middle of the story we have the part about Jesus being ‘anointed...for burial’. It is another (not so veiled) statement regarding his upcoming death. As we can see, this seems to be in the forefront of his mind the closer it gets. This all takes place just two days before the actual events.
But what about the poor? What’s the point? The point is that, yes, the poor will be with us. And today, there seems to be more and more of us. The gap between rich and poor is getting wider by the day. Jesus is not suggesting that we should forget them. Quite the contrary. We are to address their needs and do good deeds for them ‘whenever we want’. This is reminiscent of a passage from Deuteronomy 15.11, ‘Poor persons will never disappear from the earth. That’s why I’m giving you this command: you must open your hand generously to your fellow [brothers and sisters], to the needy among you, and to the poor who live with you in your land.’ This isn’t pushing the issues of the poor into that far future. It’s a call to realize that there will always be need to serve others. To not only help meet the immediate need, but also to work toward fixing the issues that put people in that situation. All one needs to do is take a casual read the the Bible to see that God cares about the poor and by extension God’s people should too (Exodus 23.11; Leviticus 19.10; 23.22; Deuteronomy 15.11; 1Samuel 2.8a; Ester 9.22; Psalm 12.5; 68.10; 76.9; 140.12; Proverbs 14.31; Isaiah 10.1-3; Zechariah 7.10; Matthew 6.1-4; 19.21; Luke 4.17-19; Acts 24.17; Romans 15.26; Galatians 2.10; James 2.1-5; Tobit 4.7, 16; 12.8-9; etc.).
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