I have called you for the victory of justice.
Isaiah 42: 6
The poor you will have always with you.
John 12: 8
The Servant of the Lord, portrayed in today’s first reading (Isaiah 52: 1-7) and in the three other servants songs that we’ll read this week in the liturgies, is one who brings justice.
The justice and the righteousness of God means that the people of God serve the Lord and the people. Righteousness is not just something we seek in relationships with God. It is also the justice of God which gives courage to the people and brings them out of captivity. It is liberating – in all dimensions of life.
But when Judas complains about the expensive nard that Mary used to anoint the feet of Jesus, we hear Jesus say, “The poor you will always have with you,” quoting Deuteronomy 15: 11.
It sounds like a way to excuse wealth.
But a good Jew would know that the phrase Jesus quotes is not normative, but descriptive.
In fact at the beginning of the chapter where we encounter this quote, the sacred writer challenges the people of God: “There should be no poor among you” (Deuteronomy 15: 4).
In Holy Week, we often concentrate more on the accounts of Jesus’ death in the first century.
I’d suggest that those accounts should open our hearts to the accounts of the deaths of the poor in our day.
When we seek to an overflowing love for Jesus and a commitment for justice for the poor in conflict, I think we miss the message of Jesus and read the scriptures out of context.
The Lord wants our love – and wants us to love the poor.