Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Victory of Justice

April 6, 2009

Monday of Holy Week

Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spreads out the earth with its crops, Who gives breath to its people and spirit to those who walk on it: I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice, I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations, To open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness. Isaiah 42:5-7

You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me. John 12:8


Father, we thank you for enlisting us in the walk for justice. As we set out with your Son, hand-in-hand, open our eyes to the solutions right in front of us to help those who live in darkness and are imprisoned in their own interior world. Amen.


Judas was imprisoned in his own self-image. He erected the walls and bars and then convicted himself to carry out the sentence to betray Jesus. Despite being a disciple and walking with Jesus for three years, Judas was blind to what was happening around him and knowingly or unknowingly contributed to the fullness of salvation history.

When Mary was born, she had everything she needed in order to become the Mother of God. However, she still had to assent to the message of the angel. The same was true of Judas. When he was born, he had everything he needed in order to become the traitor of Jesus. However, he still had to seize the opportunity to betray Jesus to the Pharisees.

As the plot to kill Jesus and Lazarus builds toward its Good Friday dénouement, Judas – who kept the purse of the disciples – is pushed over the edge when he sees what he considers the waste of costly spikenard. Because he is caught up in his own need for power and control, Judas fails to understand why Mary would use the expensive oils on Jesus. Even though Judas had to have heard Jesus’ talks about dying and rising from the dead, the moment and the message was lost on Judas because Judas had a hidden agenda.


What is our hidden agenda? What needs are we blind to see?

In Sunday’s Washington Post Metro section, there was this column by Henry G. Brinton and Johari Abdul-Malik, “Shelter That Fairfax Can’t Afford to Deny” (April 5, Metro C 6). The authors point out how a coalition of 40 churches of all denominations is urging Fairfax County elected leaders to preserve programs for the most vulnerable in these tough economic times. The writers are, respectively, pastor of Fairfax Presbyterian Church and imam of Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center. They are among the clergy leaders of V.O.I.C.E., an affiliate of the Industrial Areas Foundation.

Their movement is trying to save the “penny for housing program” which devotes one penny of the real estate tax rate to buy low cost rental apartments and housing units. They explain that Fairfax has a strategic opportunity -- at a fiscally prudent cost -- to reverse a decade of decline in the available number of affordable rental units. The county may miss a chance to leverage federal resources if it cuts the penny.

“Many of our congregations have just finished providing shelter and food to the homeless in a season where hypothermia is a risk, and every day we get calls from people on the street, asking for help with a night's lodging in a local motel for homeless people who are also ill. The $60 it costs to pay for a night for one homeless person in a hotel room is roughly equivalent to the average cost per household of a penny increase in the real estate tax.”

The writers seem to echo the voice of Jesus today – the poor you will always have with you. Just as Mary stepped forward and used the expensive oils to anoint Jesus, we in Fairfax County have a choice to pay for the housing one way or another. Because the homeless we will always have with us.

Please consider asking your county supervisor to preserve this housing fund and close the budget deficit through other means.

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