MOSAIC Fall 2016 - Page 39

THE LIVING WORD Reading Scripture from the Heart of the Church “As You Did to One of the Least” Dr. Mary Healy W hat was the secret of Mother Teresa’s extraordinary ability to touch the hearts of people of every nation, background, and religion? There are many organizations that serve the poor and countless individuals who devote themselves to the relief of human suffering. Why was this diminutive nun in a striped sari honored and loved with deep affection throughout the world? But in the New Testament, the Lord rePerhaps the answer may be found by veals something new. Around the time of looking at what Scripture teaches about Passover, when it was customary to give works of mercy. God’s command to care for the needy is alms, there was a memorable scene: a one of the most frequently repeated injunc- woman came and poured on Jesus a costtions in the Bible. When the people of Israel ly gift, an alabaster jar of precious ointment. Perhaps not surprisingly, the disciwere about to cross over into the Promised ples were upset: “Why this waste? For this Land, God admonished them, “The poor will never cease out of the land; therefore ointment might have been sold for a large sum, and given to the poor” (Mt 26:8-9). I command you, you shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to Her spontaneous generosity seemed to them a needless waste of what could have the poor” (Dt 15:11). No Israelite should ever celebrate a feast without sharing his been used for poverty relief. But Jesus responds food with “the alien, by indicating that it the orphan and the “Without this is actually they who widow” (Dt 16:14). No motivation, a Christian have failed to respond one harvesting his crops rightly. “Why do you should ever reap all the ministry to the poor trouble the woman? way to the edge of the becomes merely For she has done a field, but should leave another NGO.” beautiful thing to me. some to be gleaned by For you always have the poor (Dt 24:19-22). Through Isaiah, God taught his people the poor with you, but you will not always have me” (Mt 26:10-11). what kind of fasting pleases him: “Is not The disciples’ advocacy for a more this the fast that I choose: . . . Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and moderate response to Jesus was founded on worldly calculations that completely bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, missed the significance of his identity and and not to hide yourself from your own mission. The divine bridegroom was in their midst and was about to make an inflesh?” (Is 58:6-7). finitely costly gift of himself on the cross. Could anything given to him be a waste? Jesus’ words in no way mean that his followers are dispensed from charity toward the poor. Rather, our gifts to the poor must be first and foremost gifts to him, the Lord who is infinitely worthy of our love and devotion. Only then do they have the purity of intention that makes them a manifestation of God’s own love for the poor. Prior to any act of charity to the poor is charity toward Jesus himself, for he himself is present in the poor. Without this motivation, a Christian ministry to the poor becomes merely another NGO. With it, it becomes a sign of the kingdom of heaven in our midst. Mother Teresa understood this well, such that her every act of service was an act of love for Jesus himself “in the distressing disguise of the poor.” No wonder we can hardly hear Jesus’ words in Matthew 25—just before the alabaster jar scene in Matthew 26—without thinking of Mother Teresa: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). Dr. Mary Heal 䁥́ɽͽȁMɕMɥɔ)ЁMɕ!и()̹͡((((0