“You will always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me.” This might be my favorite Jesus quote. It is so dripping with irony and sarcasm. If only Jesus could see what has become of his disciples: mega-churches meeting in former basketball arenas, churches overflowing with gold and silver, pastors driving BMWs, National Church offices arrogantly housed at 815 2nd Avenue, and yes, even me, making close to $60,000 a year.
“You can show kindness to [the poor] whenever you wish…”
Somewhere along the line, I guess disciples stopped “wishing” to take care of the poor. Sure, there are still plenty who do. Saint Paul’s works hard to lift up the estate of the lowly through Family Promise, Habitat for Humanity, Ecumenical Ministries, our ministry at Foley Elementary School, and in various other ways in which our parishioners give of their time, talents, and treasure showing kindness to the poor. I watch with awe, each day, as Pope Francis continues to buck the system and return the Magisterium to earth, and wonder how he might realize the monetary savings into honest kindness to the poor. I give thanks and praise when Rick Warren and other mega-church pastors find ways to use their considerable means to bring clean water or AIDS relief to Africa.
I do think the tide is turning, and the pendulum is moving away from self-interests and big buildings and toward committed disciples sharing their gifts (time, talent, treasure, and gospel) with the world around them. Still, I wonder what Jesus thinks about what the Church has become. All the while, imagining a wry smile as he tells Judas, who apparently was a thief; Peter, who would deny him three times; and the rest of the group gathered, “You can show kindness to [the poor] whenever you wish.”