Jesus, Justice, and the Poor

“I have called you for the victory of justice.”
Isaiah 42: 6

“The poor you always have with you.”
John 12: 8

 The Gospel for Monday of Holy Week is Mary anointing the feet of Jesus in Bethany.

Judas complains about the price of the nard Mary used. The evangelist explains that he did this not because he cared for the poor but because of his greed: he was a thief.

But Jesus answers “Leave her alone…. The poor you always have with you, but you will not always have me.”

This verse has been one of the most misused and misunderstood.

The verse is a quotation of Deuteronomy 15:11 where it is a statement of fact. Any good Jew would have realized this and seen that the verse is an indictment of the people; just a few verses before (Deuteronomy 15:4) the scriptures declare: “You should have no poor in your midst.”

Indeed, Deuteronomy 15: 7 states bluntly: “If there is anybody among your brothers… do not harden your heart or close your hand, but be open-handed and lend him all that he needs.”

The Lord truly, as the Servant Song of Isaiah puts it, calls for the victory of justice – a justice that is a right relation with God and with our sisters and brothers, especially the poor.

Charity and justice and grateful generosity to God and others are the ways we can live in the justice of God – not making excuses for not sharing with the poor.



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