Imagine we are sitting at dinner today with Jesus at Simon the Leper’s house, when a woman comes in, breaks a jar of perfumed oil used for burials and pours it on Jesus. We are completely shocked. Now imagine this oil is worth $111,900 (the median household income in Santa Clara County) and that we and our friends could have sold this oil as part of a social enterprise and donated the money to help people get out of poverty.
Let’s see, we could have helped 225 unemployed people get jobs or 1,400 students in poverty improve their English and STEM skills; helped 870 children with early childhood development or 533 low-income seniors with wellness support; fed thousands of seniors or provided over a hundred people with housing assistance. We could do a lot of good.
So some of our friends become indignant and ask Jesus – Why the waste, when we could sell it and use the money to give to the poor? And of course Jesus tells us to leave the woman alone, that she has done a good thing for him, preparing him for his own burial. He responds, “The poor you will always have with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them, but you will not always have me.” (Mark 14:7)
While this scripture passage presages Jesus’ death and resurrection, it also speaks to the life of the early Church as a community that directly cares for those who are poor.
Today, we are still called to be that community that cares for people in need. Rather than interpreting Jesus’ saying as an economic prediction and a cause for despair, I believe it offers us both a challenge and a sign of hope. The challenge is that poverty persists because of human greed, ignorance and callousness. The hope is that those who are poor are “with” the community of believers (not out of sight and out of mind but part of our community). Through those who struggle we have an opportunity for a graced encounter with Christ – to feel compassion, to be generous and to see the face of God.
Today, through Catholic Charities, I invite you to care for those who are poor right in our own community, in Jesus’ name.
For ways to help please visit, www.CatholicCharitiesSCC.org.