The Poor and the Costly Oil
Now when Jesus was in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster jar of costly perfumed oil, and poured it on his head while he was reclining at table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant and said, “Why this waste? It could have been sold for much, and the money given to the poor.” Since Jesus knew this, he said to them, “Why do you make trouble for the woman? She has done a good thing for me. The poor you will always have with you; but you will not always have me. In pouring this perfumed oil upon my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Amen, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be spoken of, in memory of her.Matthew 26:6-13 (NABRE).
Care for the poor is part of the basic social justice and charity toward neighbor that God has always demanded. Yet here, the Apostles -- Judas traditionally being the chief instigator -- had lost sight of the supernatural nature of Jesus' mission and His divinity. Jesus reminds them that their focus was in the wrong place.
The demagogue with his voters. The Communist with his proletariate. The Peronist with his descamisados. The Liberation Theologian with his poor. They withhold the oil from Jesus' head.
Worst of all, there are prelates who see the Church as just another political party to pursue worldly goals. Having, perhaps, lost faith in God, they have fashioned for themselves an idol of The Poor, or, worse, their own love for The Poor. Such prelates are frauds if they burn for The Poor, but not for Christ and the salvation of souls. Once again, they have lost sight of the supernatural nature of Jesus' mission and His divinity. Incredibly, they do not understand the purpose of the Church.
"The poor you will always have with you." This is Jesus' prophecy. Yet that is not what one hears today. If only we curb global warming. If only we redistribute wealth. If only we get rid of capitalism, then we could eliminate poverty. The poor we will not have anymore, for we have willed it, and our will be done on earth.
Judas is still clamoring, Peter is scolding, the apostles are still indignant, all snatching at the alabaster jar of costly oil lest any be wasted on the sweet head of their Savior. It must instead be sold for much and the money given to the poor.
Here are two observations, one easy and one, perhaps, challenging.
God has always demanded that we care for the poor, and we should, as the Church always has. Yet, lately, the Catholic Church seems to care more for the world than for Heaven. Between temporary bellies and immortal souls, the Church has made a bewildering choice. We are told that The Poor are somehow magical just because they are poor. This is Liberation Theology pure and simple.
The second observation is just a personal one. But the Bear senses that God wants you to feed a hungry person more than he wants a hungry person to be fed. God wants us to act for the glory of His Name, and in charity for our neighbor. He doesn't want us to come up with grand bureaucratic schemes to eliminate poverty or save the planet. Like all of us, The Poor will soon be called to judgment and be spending eternity in either Heaven or Hell. The planet is slated for destruction according to God's hidden and unchangeable will.
One pictures the scene: the squabbling apostles, the frightened woman. But at the center, at peace, is the serene figure of Christ speaking words of rebuke and comfort. That is where our eyes must rest, on Jesus Christ alone.
Next: When Jesus Left the Poor Hungry