I know its Wednesday but I am still reading Monday’s liturgical passages because I think there is a strong message here. One of the last lines of Monday’s reading from the Gospel is “You always have the poor with you.” When I heard this years ago I thought it was callous and unfeeling. Then I realized that it was true. The poor WILL always be with us. Which leaves me to say, is that all there is? (a reference to the Peggy Lee song from the 60s). The simple answer is yes. The more difficult answer is an emphatic “no.” On one hand, there are the poor, and for whatever reason they are poor or homeless or refugees with nothing but the clothes they carry with them and that’s that. I move on with my life. On the other hand is the question of what can I do to make a difference? There is a process that I go through before I can do something. First is an awareness of the situation, second is to realize that the poor and marginalized are us, and the third is to do…something. When someone is begging for a dollar or spare change I don’t ask “Well what are you going to do with it?” That’s not my job. If I have it I give it away. Giving does not come with a check list and requirements. Giving does not come with strings attached. Giving is giving. It’s love. We love someone and if we are lucky maybe we are loved in return, maybe not. But we don’t put strings on love like a quid pro quo.
Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil
made from genuine aromatic nard
and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair;
the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.
Then Judas the Iscariot, one of his disciples,
and the one who would betray him, said,
“Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages
and given to the poor?”
He said this not because he cared about the poor
but because he was a thief and held the money bag
and used to steal the contributions.
So Jesus said, “Leave her alone.
Let her keep this for the day of my burial. (John 12)
So today is half way through Holy Week and the end of the long Lenten season is in sight. Way back when, nearly 40 days ago I talked about giving up stuff for Lent then turned it around and made it doing stuff for Lent which is a little more risky. I guess I had to put my time where my mouth was. Volunteering is a way to actively help the poor in a giving sort of way. It’s risky and sometimes not appreciated. It’s an activity that does not look for anything in return. It is below the radar. So far what I have given in time and questionable talent does not compare to what I have received. I never expected it. I’m retired they say I should be playing golf they say. (Quite frankly I hate golf.) So in-between babysitting gigs, I continue to volunteer. I like it and I’ve met wonderful people with rich and sometimes harrowing stories to tell. Yes the poor we will always have with us, but we can make a small difference by being present to them and not to treat them as the them in us and them. Can we eradicate poverty, homeless and migration? Probably not but we can walk beside the poor and marginalized as companions. Maybe if we are strong enough we can change the systems that perpetuate poverty. That’s something, at least.
and so it goes…