"You Always Have the Poor With You..."

A reading for Thursday, February 27, 2014: John 11:55-12:8

Jesus said, "You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me."

If poverty were simply the lack of material possessions, perhaps this would not be true. As hard as it is for us to imagine, we could develop theoretical models in which everyone on the planet has enough.

Scientists have long known that the world produces enough food for everyone to be fed and it is simply the delivery system that is filled with corruption and broken enough that some people starve to death. That is sad but true. However, we could still work for a day when the world finally gets its act together and solves world hunger and nobody has to die because of poverty. In such a case we could dream of a day when we don't always have the poor with us. At least in that example.

The truth is, however, that poverty is not just about material possessions. It is also about the brokenness of human relationships. Poverty is separation from God, and separation from one another. We see examples all over the world. We also see examples right in our own families and with our neighbors. Selfishness, greed, violence, power... some of these lead to material poverty, but in the end the root cause is not the lack of resources, but a brokenness of relationships.

Jesus came to restore the world and to bring the Kingdom of God. In the Kingdom of God, the relationship between all of creation and God as creator is mended and restored. So the woman who washes Jesus feet with her hair and anoints him is demonstrating that she understands what's at stake. She wants Jesus to know that she understands her own poverty and desperately wants a relationship with God and with others. This is a woman, most scholars think, who lived as an outcast to the religious community. Judas continues to treat her with disdain. Jesus welcomes her and even commends her action as a foretaste of the Kingdom of God.

This too is our role. We are called to demonstrate to others such a foretaste of the Kingdom. We won't ever eliminate poverty, until the Kingdom comes in all it's fullness, even if everybody suddenly had enough. When Jesus comes again, God will restore our relationship with our creator and with others through him. Poverty is about relationships. Until Jesus comes again, we will have poverty with us. The good news is that we still can hope. We can still dream of a world without poverty. Someday in the fullness of time and the goodness of God's grace, it will be so. Until then we look for Jesus. Until then we follow as his disciples...

Jesus said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (-Matthew 22:36-40)


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