The Gospel of John can be confusing on a number of levels. It’s believed that this Gospel account is written by one of the youngest and most educated of the early Christ followers. It’s definitely literary in ways that the other three synoptic Gospels seem to only be literal. So when we hear this passage of Jesus saying that “the poor will always be with you, but I will not”, we have to ask what exactly is the author getting at here, because he is always getting to something deeper. I have to believe this is an inference to what we hear Jesus intimating in Matthew 25 with the separation of the Sheep and Goats.
In that Matthew passage Jesus is clear that there are times when we will see him in the poor and times when we will not. The times we don’t will be indictments on our own intentions. We will have ample opportunity to serve if only we stay vigilant, or awake, or Woke, as it’s more popularly known today. Jesus also offers strong condemnation of those who claim to “know him” but who refuse to follow this supreme command to love others. And if we simply offer lip service, but not actually care for other’s needs we’re placing an additional indictment on ourselves, as well. Check out the second chapter of James for more on that.
This is why it is so refreshing to me to see the work of someone like Ginny Ramsey of the Catholic Action Center. In the time I’ve known here, which spans close to 20 years now, she has been accused of everything from not praying with her residents, to even disrupting the neighborhoods she’s tried to serve. She’s been dealt personal blows with family tragedies, and all the while stood firm in her commitment to the “least of these”, as Jesus illustrates.
Now, the Catholic Action Center is expanding services in a brand new facility. And, in addition to the expansion, is doing the same thing they’ve always done with the extended outreach to the greater Lexington community with the Faith and Community Christmas Store in partnership with Southland Christian Church. These very tangible entrees to the community should show us what faith really looks like. The Catholic Action Center doesn’t hold political rallies or lobby the legislature for policy appeals, they don’t know on doors, or eve hold prayer services. But, they are there 24/7 with a place for the most marginalized members of our community to come out of the cold, be fed and find warm welcome.
Mother Theresa, now St. Theresa of Calcutta, experienced similar criticism. Some accused her of universalism, or even polytheism, because she dared to simply let the lepers she’d pulled from the streets to die with dignity and love as opposed to rushing them to a priest for baptism and confirmation. Her willingness to serve the Christ in the most distressed apparently wasn’t enough for some who felt the need to find fault in her noble actions.
There will always be the critics. Detractors will always detract. But at the end of the day only one thing really matters. If we take care of the individuals in most need we are then truly serving Christ. And I would challenge it’s only then. We glorify him when the poor are fed, clothed and sheltered. There is really nothing more to this mystery. Jesus says the law and prophets are surmised in the simple understanding of how we treat each other. We essentially love God by loving others. It has to start with the human elements, with real humanism. If we deal effectively with what we can see, the unseen will essentially fall into place, so to speak.
The poor are always with us. Jesus conversely is only there when we choose to see him in those who are most in need. Empty platitudes and postures mean nothing without the goods to back it up. To refer once again to the Book of James, faith without works is dead, he says. So it’s great to know that Ginny, and the Catholic Action Center, is so very alive.
Enjoy the podcast.