The Rev. Geoffrey Butcher, Priest-in-charge Trinity Episcopal Church, Russellville

Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper when a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and poured it on his head as he sat at the table. His disciples thought this was a waste of the ointment because it could be sold for a large sum and the money given to the poor. Jesus recognized that we always have the poor with us, but the woman poured the ointment on his body as symbolic preparation for his burial. The ointment had a spiritual meaning for Jesus -- to prepare him for his death. (Matt. 26:6-13) This incident is a reminder that there are two kinds of poverty: physical poverty and interior poverty. In this account it was an interior gift that was being given.

I have the privilege of being an associate of the Community of the Transfiguration in Glendale, Ohio. This is a religious order of nuns founded in 1898. They have conducted ministries in China, Japan, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, as well as in various places in the United States. One of the most insightful sisters, Priscilla Jean, in a meditation recalled her many years of working with the poor in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. The sisters helped with food and clothing, provided recovery from natural disasters, offered education and health care, and sent out appeals for funds to provide basic necessities and assistance for those with physical and mental problems. In other words, the poor who are always with us need our assistance. But Sister Priscilla Jean went on to write about interior poverty as well. "Interior poverty is something else again! We can be poor in generosity, poor in gratitude and kindness. If we are poor in self-esteem, we may not be able to value others. If we really want to follow Jesus we must learn to love the poor of the world and the poor within us. With the help of God we can help both."

Jesus in his ministry fed the hungry, healed the sick, and encouraged us to serve those in need. He also taught us to feed the interior life with the Spirit, to do acts of kindness to meet the physical needs of others and to feed their souls as well. One can be physically rich but spiritually impoverished, lacking the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Gal. 5:22-23) One can choose a life of power and greed or be filled in the interior life with kindness and generosity. The goal is to address both forms of poverty. "With the help of God we can do both."