Then Judas the Iscariot, one of his disciples,
and the one who would betray him, said,
“Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages
and given to the poor?”
He said this not because he cared about the poor
but because he was a thief and held the money bag
and used to steal the contributions.
So Jesus said, “Leave her alone.
Let her keep this for the day of my burial.
You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”
Do you have a Judas in your family or workplace? Probably there are a lot of ways to answer this question, and a lot of ways in which we can resemble Judas in our attitudes and actions, but I want to focus on just one of them today. In the passage above, Mary Magdalene is anointing the feet of Jesus with a costly, fragrant oil as an act of homage and deference to Him. Judas wonders why the oil wasn’t sold and given to the poor, suggesting that service to the poor is a better cause than worship of Christ.
I wish I had a nickel for every time someone asked me, “If the Church cares so much about the poor, when are they going to sell the St. Peter’s Basilica and give the money to the poor?” The classic answer, of course, is that the poor deserve beauty and places to pray just as much as the rich do. It’s a nose-up proposal to think that the only thing the poor need is more money, more resources, more help; they need the Lord just as much as anyone.
Is Judas in you?
There are so many good things to do, especially in the realm of social justice and service to the poor and marginalized. Pope Francis has certainly made this a priority of his papacy. But social justice and service is just that: service; it is not worship. It is service in which the Lord takes great pleasure, especially because he himself is the one who commanded that we give alms and serve those less fortunate than ourselves. But nowhere does he says “service can be your worship.” The poor are not God. Jesus is God. We are not activists first of all, but Christians. And Christians bow down at the very name of Jesus Christ, their King and Lord, their Savior and Friend.
Whether it’s social action, sports, family, work, hobbies, or something else, we cannot let the legitimately good work we do on behalf of Christ stand in the way of or take priority over Jesus himself. Rather, may our love for Christ and our worship of him be what fills us with life and strength to go out and perform acts of service and charity in his name so that all the world could come to know Christ, love Christ, and then turn around and serve Christ in worship and in good works.