Q - I recently heard the story of Jesus being anointed with costly perfume. Judas asks the question that is not altogether irrelevant; he wonders why this wasn't sold for 300 days wages and the money given to the poor. Jesus' reason is that he will not always be with them, and it is a preparation for his death. I can understand that. But, I have been asked multiple times why the Church has so many "nice things". Are these luxuries necessary, or should they be sold and the money given to the poor? I sense that the answer lies within this gospel reading, but I was hoping that you could expound upon this issue for me. As always, the blog is great; keep up the good work!
A - Thanks for buttering me up! I hope I can help. The answer is quite simple, but I will put it in several points:
- The Catholic Church is not as "rich" as some might think. Most of her "riches" are tied up in assets that were given as gifts. More on this below.
- What happens after all the money is gone? Then where does that get us? The poor are still poor and now the Church's art, buildings, etc. are in the hands of those that might not appreciate them or steward them as well as the Church.
- The "Church" isn't just the hierarchy, it is all of us. The art, buildings, and even money is controlled by certain people, but belongs to all of us. The Pope and/or Bishops can't just sell everything off because they think it is a good idea.
- The People of God have provided the Church with the riches she has. Therefore the people have a right to be able to have the intent of their donations honored. If I gave the Vatican a priceless work of art to preserve and they sold it to the highest bidder, I would be royally miffed.
- Has anyone asked the poor if they want cash for church assets? If I were poor and gave my widow's mite to build a church and then you went and sold it without asking me I might just go apoplectic. Ask a poor and pious Catholic the next time you get the chance.
- The Catholic Church does more to aid the poor than any other private organization already. This points out that the argument isn't about the poor or what the "riches" of the Catholic Church, but about the heart of men. Judas shows us this.
- The issue of poverty isn't about an amount of money (there is plenty to go around), but about personal greed, corruption, injustice, governmental problems, economic systems, etc.
- The greatest need is spiritual poverty - not material poverty. Thus, the Church should use the gifts she has been given to erase this poverty first.
- Worship of God is the first justice issue. We owe God our worship before we owe any other human anything. Thus, if art, buildings, gold vessels, etc. can aid us to worship God, then we are fulfilling the requirements of justice.
- The total Vatican budget is about $365 million. Most large universities have this budget several times over. The Church's wealth wouldn't do much more for the poor.
"The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me."The purpose of serving the poor is to show your love of both God and man. What better way of showing love to both God and man, but by loving both in the person of Jesus Christ?
I hope this helps.