Having made our way through the long Lenten haul, we now suddenly find ourselves nearing its climax. That’s right – we have just entered Holy Week. And looming on the horizon, only just beyond our view, is that greatest of liturgical feasts – Holy Triduum.
What better time to take a moment to once again re-focus, to take a last-minute re-examination of the purpose of this sacred time?
It’s all wrapped up, hidden as if in a seed, in those mysterious words Jesus speaks at the home of Lazarus. He has just had His feet anointed by Mary in today’s Gospel reading, and responds to Judas’ protest about the expense of the perfume, saying:
You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.
In response to this, those social moral structures of our time can say – nothing.
It is good, salt-of-the-earth wisdom to care for the poor and needy. It’s good to be compassionate and generous to the less fortunate. In fact, we are called, as Christians, to be merciful, to feed the hungry, to care for the needy, to be generous with our attention and our resources. To neglect the needy is, in fact, one of the “sins that cry to heaven” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1867), and Christ has said He will call us to account for it (Matthew 25:31-46).
And yet, here, that salt-of-the-earth wisdom is cast against a greater light.
What is the greatest poverty?
What is the greatest sickness?
What is the truest death?
Earlier on in His ministry, Jesus Himself gives us the answer:
I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. (Luke 12:4-5)
Again and again, we hear it from His lips and His actions, in His priority of forgiveness over physical healing (i.e. Matthew 9:2-8), and in His repeated call to repentance.
The greatest poverty is to be rich, and yet without God (Luke 12:15-21). The greatest sickness is to be without love, or to have shut love out.
The greatest death is the death of being separated from God.
And now, the Divine Healer approaches. Though He is known for His many miraculous cures, and for the wisdom of His words, these are not His greatest work. The greatest is yet to come.
Christ, God made flesh, has come to Jerusalem. He is about to face down the greatest Enemy of mankind. He is here to conquer Death itself. He is here to utterly defeat the Prince of Lies, the Tempter, the one who has had the whole world enslaved to sin and who has rendered us separated from God.
His Passion does not, at the present time, “make poverty history”. He does not provide us with a cure for all diseases. He does not stop the physical dying process. We do await those things in the complete fulfillment of His Kingdom with His Second Coming. And we are called to imitate Christ and continue His mission of mercy to the world, taking care of people both in body and soul and carrying out the spread of His Kingdom on Earth.
Yet, for the time being, the poor we still always have with us.
So what do we gain?
We gain freedom from lasting death; from spiritual death; from sin.
Christ in His Passion comes to set us free from the slavery of sin, from the despair of being separate from God. Christ in His Resurrection comes to open to us the way of eternal life, of the divine reign of love, of a real tangible relationship with God. And His real, physical Resurrection is our truest guarantee of that.
This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church.
Let us be proud to profess it.
Let us be proud to live it.
If publishing article online please attribute source Serviam Ministries with link to original article.