"You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me."
~ John 12:8
One thing that becomes apparent about this time during Lent, is that I realize that Jesus understands that his life is drawing to an end as he and the Disciples know it. At the home of Lazarus, who has already known one of the greatest miracles of Jesus' ministry, Mary approaches him and begins to bathe his feet with perfume.
Judas asks why the perfume has not been sold with the proceeds going to the poor?
"You will always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me," Jesus shares.
I have been in the room when people have received bad news. This must have been one of those moments that pulled the air out of the room. I have to wonder what the faces of those present looked like? Did Peter turn to John and look perplexed? Did Judas roll his eyes and think, "Here he goes with another story?" Did Mary fully understand that this was to be one of the last times that she could offer him hospitality in this way?
I remember being present as a baby was in full code at the hospital. The baby, a little girl, was surrounded by her parents. They were children themselves. The father was just 16 years old, and her mother only fifteen. I watched with them as the team worked on the child. The doctor, who I had known for some time, looked up at me. Our eyes locked and I saw from her expression that their attempts were only in vain. The child was going to die no matter what attempts that they made.
I turned to the baby's father, and I said, "It's important that you be this girl's father now. They are looking to you to make a decision."
I remember him turning to me, with tears running down his face, and his words, "I thought I would have more time with her."
"Fathers always want to have more time with their daughters," I said, "but at some point, all fathers must give their daughters away."
He found the words to ask the team to stop.
The room became quiet as machines were turned off, and condolences were offered by those present. The couple looked at the lifeless body, knowing that their lives would be forever changed by the presence, no matter how long, of this one person.
Jesus was going away, and there are those present who are beginning to tell their hearts, "I thought that we would have him with us longer."
The world around them was changing daily. Finding times like the one that they were experiencing at Lazarus' home were becoming nearly impossible, and they were growing weary. Jesus himself, prayed, "Let this cup pass from me."
The unconditional presence of God is something that is with us each day. Even on days where the news that we encounter leaves us without words, and with expressions on our faces that cannot hide our fears. But even on our worst days, when we seem to be living out "the last moments," we are not alone.
While the presence of Jesus for the Disciples was about to end, a greater presence of Jesus for us today was about to begin.
His words were true. Even to this day the poor remain with us, but so does the resurrected presence of Jesus. It is in this belief that the final weeks of Lent can move us to make changes that will last beyond Easter, our own death, and into eternity.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2019
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain at Essential Hospice, Webster, Texas, and is an ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.