With what shall I come before the Lord,
and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with tens of thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? (Michah 6:6-8)
Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, “Why this waste? For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.”
The prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible emphasize a different side of our relationship to God. Instead of blind obedience to the law, they emphasize seeking justice, and walking humbly with God. Jesus speaks from this prophetic tradition when he emphasizes how to take care of those who are in need. Some interpret this to mean that we can establish peace on earth or create God’s kingdom on earth. Yet Jesus seems to contradict that by saying he sets man against father, daughter against mother, and foes will come from one’s own household. He tells the disciples, when they complain about Mary using the oil in the alabaster jar to anoint him, that they will always have the poor. It is clear that Jesus did not come to bring about a time of perfect abundance, or to eliminate war or hunger. Some human beings will always turn to war and violence out of fear. Inequality—economic or otherwise—will always be one of the conditions that exists in the world.
Jesus is suggesting to his followers that there is a peace that comes in a different way; his emphasis is on the interior attitude and consciousness of a person. This is the clue that we can find that peace inside of ourselves, just as he demonstrates through his own life. We journey with him. Our right actions, our right words, and our right intentions, after they are faithfully offered in our daily lives, lead to this peace. Our prayer, our meditation, our inner life help us remain aware and conscious of where peace can be found. We will not find it in the exterior world; the world is where we work. We find it in God.
Injustice, inequality, and violence are present with us, God. Where possible, help us to work to ease suffering, help us to become examples of peace and love. May we use our intelligence, our skills, and our resources to restore your intention of love and grace in the world. Let truth guide us, and with humble hearts may we do whatever is required to surrender to your will and accept the wisdom and design of your creation. Amen.
From The Readings
2012-39 Jeffrey is coming to understand that there can be a larger purpose and a greater principle at work in his life. He has resisted being used by others. He has fought back and maintained his own freedom against the control or manipulation of other human beings. This impulse of freedom, in some ways, has come simply through the life that is in him and his sense of justice. But he must also understand that there are going to be times when because of his strength, and because of his conviction, he will be an instrument of God’s will even in times when he does not completely choose this freely. By being himself, just as with any person being themselves, he can be provocative to others even when he doesn’t want to be provocative. This is a condition of the world. One cannot truly hide from others, nor hide from God. All things will be known. It is because of this principle that we are able to see—those who become wise are able to see—the intentions of others. Without this provocation, many forms of darkness would remain hidden—and there are forms of darkness that retain their strength because they are hidden. So the provocative nature of some things produces or instigates in ways that bring things to light. And Jeffrey might as well start getting used to being provocative; and he will have to deal with looking like everybody else, but being different.