Monday, March 22, 2010

Blessed Are The Poor. In spirit, that is.

John 12:1-13.

Technically, Judas had it right. Three hundred denarii, or about a year's worth of wages for a laborer, would have done a lot more good if spread around to the poor of Bethany or Jerusalem, or wherever.

Instead, Mary the sister of Lazarus dumps a whole year's pay on Jesus' feet. Where'd she get that kind of money to begin with? Why wasn't her heart in a better place, we ask?

Well, perhaps it wasn't in too bad a place.

After all, Jesus had just a few days earlier given back the life of her brother Lazarus. To think that she, sister Martha and Lazarus gave a dinner in Jesus' honor is no stretch at all. Hello! I'd do that if somebody had just brought me painlessly through a root canal!

Jesus seems to be insensitive to the needs of the poor. "You always have the poor with you. You do not always have me." Before we go the wrong direction with this, we should remember where Jesus spent his time and with whom. Jesus found the kingdom of God most alive and most operative among the poor, precisely where good news was most needed.

But He didn't consider poverty to be a blessed state. He considered having one's heart in the right place to be a blessed state--which had everything to do with how one saw and responded to poverty, the need for grace, the need for healing, the need for hope.

Judas, a chronic embezzler according to John, did not have his heart in those places. But he almost succeeds in pulling the cloak of legitimacy over his argument.

Jesus points to Mary as the counterexample. Mary understood what was at stake. She understood the difference between what's expensive and what's truly valuable.

Jesus is about to go to Jerusalem for the final confrontation in his life. There he will give what's very costly to obtain what's very valuable: his life so that we might have life.

One year's pay would have done some good in and around Bethany. And that would have been the end of it. A world changed for generations by the love of Christ does a world and an eternity of good. If we worship the wrong things, that doesn't happen.

Jesus was arrested and tried and convicted by people who couldn't see what was truly valuable. He was accused not for doing evil things but for doing good things that went outside the thinking of the leaders of his day. May He always continue to do so.

And may the witness of Mary endure forever. Thanks be to God.


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