But you do not always have me
The Gospel at the Funeral was today’s Gospel (Jn. 12:1-11). At first, it struck me as an unusual choice, full as it is with complex messages and religious people secretly planning evil: not the easiest way to comfort people overwhelmed by grief.
But suddenly out of the shadows of the text, a relevant idea came to me, illuminating a path out of the darkness of sudden, youthful death...
What a waste. What a terrible waste. That thought comes again and again to our minds as we try to come to terms with so quick a loss of a person with such promise. So much good that person could have done!
Then it was with terrible discomfort that I realized that this thought – what a waste, what good might instead have been done – was echoed in the Gospel.
"Why was this oil not sold… and given to the poor?"
It was a very disturbing thought: to compare thoughts of grief with a cover story for larceny by Judas Iscariot himself!
But if we set aside that this question was asked by Judas and that his underlying motive was greed, we recognize that there is really nothing wrong with the question itself: it is a good question and has a noble sentiment (which is why Judas misused it for his own purposes in the first place).
So, the ulterior motives of bad people aside, wouldn’t it really have been best that this costly oil would have been sold to help the poor?
Wouldn’t it have been better for this young person to have lived a long life of doing great things for God and his people?
We turn now to our Lord’s answer.
“You always have the poor with you,
but you do not always have me."
As we go through our daily lives, we tend to take the people we know and love for granted. So too did the disciples take our Lord for granted.
Our Lord is here reminding them that his time on earth is limited: he is not their possession; he is a gift, the greatest gift of a loving God.
For God so loved the world
that he gave his only Son…
Yes, there are needs and there will always be people in need, but how can we ever hope to meet those needs except with the gifts of God?
Yes, the loss of this young life leaves a great gap among us, but this loss is a strong and clear lesson: that everything in life is a gift from God in accordance with the mysterious ways and depths of his love.
Everyone we know and every one of us are gifts from God. Moreover, as Christians, we are called to be imitators of Christ, the greatest of all gifts.
We must take this lesson to heart, a lesson taught by the loss of a young life, and appreciate the many gifts we still have and will continue to receive from God, and most importantly, put to better use the gift that we ourselves are.
Take none of God’s gifts for granted – especially the gifts which are the other people in our lives and the gift of our own time on this earth – for you will not always have them.
There are many needs. Learn the lesson. Use well the gifts – now.