The gospel according to John hit be differently this morning. I’d heard of and spent some time being bothered by one specific verse that I saw differently this morning, finally released from my previous incomplete readings.
“You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”
It was a verse that had itched at me off and on for a while. In part, because I had read other translations which changed the tense to “You will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me,” which seemed to focus on Jesus’s foretelling of his own death, which would come by the end of this week.
In addition, a few lines back, John tells us that Jesus is talking to Judas, who has complained that Mary was using expensive oils to anoint Jesus when the oils should be sold to feed the poor. Here, John tells us that Judas was a thief who stole from contributions meant to go to the poor.
Was Jesus calling out Judas here? Was he suggesting that Judas had been carrying the poor (and the money that he was stealing from them) in his heart where he should have been carrying Jesus? Was he pointing out Judas’s failure to focus on what was currently present (Jesus, himself) in favor of recalling those (the poor) who were not currently present?
I love Judas because he always reminds me of two things. One, that all of this are always on the same precipice of turning towards evil as he did. And two, that God is all forgiving and merciful no matter the myriad ways in which we might offend him.
I pray for Judas because I have learned from the moments when he has faltered, including this one in which he holds “the poor” up as a means to shield his own sin. I have much to learn from this.