During this season of Lent, I will be working through Bishop Robert Barron’s Lenten Gospel Reflections (available through Word on Fire). Each day, I will share the readings and the reflection question, followed by my own thoughts.
April 11, 2022
1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 There they made him a supper; Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at table with him. 3 Mary took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it. 7 Jesus said, “Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of my burial. 8 The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” 9 When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came, not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus also to death, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.
The Holy Bible (Revised Standard Version; Second Catholic Edition, Jn 12:1–11). (2006). Ignatius Press.
When have you acted “from the deepest place in your heart,” fully knowing that someone would seriously disapprove of your actions? What was the result?
I love how John pulls no punches in his account of this story. His disgust with Judas is palpable: he goes so far as to say that Judas rebuked Mary “not [because] he cared for the poor but because he was a thief” (John 12:6)!
I’ve heard self-proclaimed Christians cite Jesus’ words in this account to justify shirking their responsibility to give alms to the poor. They’ll say, “I pay taxes which the government uses for welfare programs, so I’m caring for the needy.” If pressed to acknowledge their personal responsibility to those in need, they’ll say, “It’s not like poverty is something that we can ever end; after all, Jesus says that there will always be poor people.” But a simple reading of His words in context shows us not that He is absolving us of responsibility to the poor; rather, He is giving a highly contextual statement – directed at a specific group of people in a specific time – to attend to the events soon to transpire (the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ), after which time they are to continue to give to the poor. We see in Acts 4:32-35 that the apostles, who had heard Jesus’ words with their own ears, understood that after the Resurrection they should give to the poor.
On one level, though, it’s true that there will always be people who live in poverty. But a key concept that we need to understand is that this doesn’t necessarily mean that people who at some point in their lives live in poverty need to die in poverty. We can help those who are in need both physically and spiritually, and we can pray that our contribution may help them to escape the vicious cycle of poverty. And whether or not they do, we can continue to help those who are in need.
Now, on to the reflection question. I’m not going to go into great detail at this time, but my conversion to Catholicism is something that I felt deeply in my heart was the right thing to do. It’s been a very lonely road, but I decided that I’d rather do the right thing than the easy thing.
Lord Jesus, You gave Your life for those who were in need of mercy and utterly undeserving. Open my eyes to those who are in need, that I may point them to You, the living Bread and the living Water – our nourishment not just for a day but for eternity.