Monday, March 29, 2010

Monday of Holy Week

(Isaiah 42:1-7; John 12:1-11)

When Judas grumbles that the nard used to anoint Jesus might have been sold with the proceeds going to the poor, he commits an error common today and perhaps throughout history. Judas, like many of us, fails to recognize Jesus as a poor person. Marked for immenent death, Jesus suffers a particularly virulent form of poverty for even the rich need time to enjoy the consumption of their wealth.

Jesus tells Judas that the poor will always remain on the earth. In another gospel passage Jesus says that he too will be with his people “always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). We do well to connect these statements with another saying of Jesus perhaps even more familiar, “...whatever you did for one of these least brothers (and sisters) of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). These quotations remind us that Jesus remains among the poor so that if we would treat him well, we must take care of the needy.

The “preacher to the papal household,” Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap., considers service to the poor part of true Eucharistic devotion. He writes that in adoration of the Eucharist, Catholics worship Jesus as true God, and in assisting the poor, we worship him as true human. To exemplify Jesus’ close identification with the poor, Fr. Cantelamessa cites a final episode in the life of the famous French Catholic philosopher, Blaise Pascal. As he lay dying unable to keep down even a tiny part of a host as Viaticum, Pascal proposed a workable substitute. He asked that some poor persons be brought into his presence. Since he could not communicate with the Head, he said, then he would “communicate at least with the body.”