Perfume or the Poor? Jesus or Judas?

by Andrew Jones

Butterfly, a symbol of the ResurrectionEach Lent I do my best to follow the three obligations: give something up, take something on, and give alms. To that end I always keep loose change in my coat pocket and whenever I pass by a homeless person asking for money I put some in their cup. A small thing, I know — I also know all the arguments for not doing it — but I’ve learned over the years that it helps open my eyes to the poor around me — and in New York City, there are a lot of poor around me.

But Jesus throws a monkey wrench into this when he rebukes Judas for wanting to cash in on the perfume and give the money to the poor. Yes, Judas pilfered from the cashbox and he only wanted the cash so he could spend it himself, but I’ve always seen Judas’ admonition as rather prudent. The amount of money that perfume could have raised, in today’s terms, is about $30,000! That could have fed a lot of poor people.

“You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” It’s true that the poor are always present, but when do I not have Jesus? Perhaps the two are a mirror to the other. When I am in the presence of the poor then I am in the presence of Christ, and being in the presence of Christ brings me into the presence of the poor.


Monday, March 21, 2016
Isaiah 42:1-9
Psalm 36:5-11
Hebrews 9:11-15
John 12:1-11