Holy Week Wednesday in Mark’s gospel highlights the contrast between faithful following and falling away. How ironic, how cruel, really, that centuries later, we claimed faithful followers take Jesus’ words to the very proto-betrayer Judas Iscariot (you will always have the poor with you. . .) and turn them into a command to ignore the needs of the poor, as if in that ignoring is found love rather than blind indifference, faithfulness rather than falling away.
So here is how I hear Jesus’ words to Judas that fateful Wednesday . . .
Really, Judas? You’re going to throw up care for the poor to me? Really? You (of all people) are really going to chastize this woman for anticipating your deed, your betrayal? Well, son, you’ve got the money purse in your hands – why don’t you take that money and provide for the poor? Oh – we have need of it, do we? Well, that’s different then, isn’t it? Ah, Judas, how very sad you make me. That bribe money you’re going to get? It’ll burn a hole in your hand, you know. Poor folk need you too, Judas. They need you to be caring and providing, but they also need you to be humble and a little less sure that you’ve got the answers to their problems. They and I need you to listen to us instead of the voice in your own head for a change. Could you do that for us? No? I was afraid of that. It – you – could have been so different, you know. The poor you speak so passionately about? They’ve been standing right in front of you your whole life. Where was your concern for them yesterday? Where will it be tomorrow? No, Judas, this isn’t about the poor. It’s about you. You’re watching a funeral happen right in front of your own eyes and because we laugh and celebrate, you mistake it for a party. Life is a celebrating thing, Judas. Why can’t you see that? Why can you not see that caring for each other – all of each other – is a blessing, not a burden? Oh, Judas, I had such hopes for you. It’s not too late – you know – for you. You can still change your mind, change your course, change your destiny. It’s possible. And it’s up to you. Just don’t throw the poor in my face. This – her love and your betrayal – have nothing to do with the poor. Stop blaming them and choose your own life. I am begging you, Judas. Do not do this. And yes, Judas, you will always have poor folk among you – folks like you, sadly, will make sure of that.