Father Ignatius tried something new with his congregation. He suggested they held an “Any Questions” meeting whereby members of the audience would ask him and Father Donald any question, totally unprepared and unscripted, and they would try to answer it.
It was the first such event held at the church center and that evening in question was well attended. About fifty people turned up, which by all standards was a good attendance on a cold winter evening.
At first the questions were somewhat tentative and easily dealt with by either priest, mainly relating to the running of the church, Mass times in winter, and the diminishing amount received in Sunday collections.
But then a young lady stood up and asked the top table: “May I read something before I ask my question?
“While Jesus was eating, a woman came in with an alabaster jar full of very expensive perfume made from pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on Jesus’ head. Some of the people there became angry and said to one another, ‘What was the use of wasting the perfume? It could have been sold for more than three hundred silver coins and the money given to the poor!’ And they criticized her harshly.
But Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone! Why are you bothering her? She has done a fine and beautiful thing for me. You will always have poor people with you, and any time you want to, you can help them. But you will not always have me.’
“This is from Mark 14 3-7,” she concluded.
“My question to you Fathers is why did Jesus say ‘You will always have poor people with you?’”
Before either priest could answer, a man at the front said; “Good point … Is Jesus saying poverty will be with us always? Is He saying that all our efforts to help the poor are in vain?”
“Might as well not bother,” mumbled another man sitting beside him.
The two priests looked at each other. Father Ignatius cleaned his glasses slowly and said nothing at first.
“Of course we should bother …” declared Father Donald, “it is our duty to help the poor. Jesus was making the point that He would soon be crucified and gone from the people, whereas the poor will always be with us. Don’t you agree Ignatius?”
“Well …” replied Father Ignatius slowly, “two thousand years later and we still have poverty in this world. So Christ was not far wrong with what He said.
“But let us look at what Jesus said in a wider context.
“Could He perhaps be talking about something more than just material poverty?
“Is He maybe reminding us that there will always be someone worse off than us? Someone who is poor in material things, someone poor in spirit, poor in health, poor in education or even poor in Faith. This may be miss-interpreting Him perhaps but still worth considering.
“We all have a responsibility towards those in poverty in one way or another. No matter how their poverty manifests itself.
“We should always readily recognize our blessings and share them with those less well off than us.
“If we are fortunate to be financially rich, we should give to those who have not.
“If we are in good health, we should help those who are sick. Visit them at home or in hospital, and give a hand when needed.
“If we are clever or intelligent we should be more tolerant towards those not as bright as us and help educate them where we can.
“And if our Faith is strong, we should help and pray for those who falter and fail in their walk with the Lord.”
“Wow … I never saw it this way …” commented the original questioner.
“We’ve all been given some talent or other” added Father Donald, “and we should use them for the benefit of others.”
“So I suppose Jesus could be referring to poverty in the wider sense, as well as physical poverty of course,” continued Father Ignatius, “and such poverty, whatever it may be, will continue with us as a permanent reminder of our responsibilities towards others as well as towards God Himself.
“Our talents are to be used for His glory to help others.”