Friday, 15 March 2013

Lent for Extroverts 27: A never ending story

'The poor you will always have with you', says Jesus, on receiving Mary of Bethany's 'wasteful' anointing of his feet with her costly perfume, perfume which cost the rough equivalent to $6000, an amount which, co-incidentally is equal to one ounce of the perfume Baccarat des Larmes Sacrees des Thebes, the second most expensive perfume in the world.

So Mary was lavish, to say the least. An enormous waste of money, if you think about it. Jesus thought about it and told the assembled dinner party that, effectively, it was money well spent. It was money poured out from love. Mary alone understood what was ultimately precious.

Visit to African
clinic by a member of the biggest boy band in the world,
whose collective earnings over two years is £100 million
Perhaps the visits to Africa of various pop groups and celebrities are two way traffic. Who benefits most? I squirm as the slow piano music introduces a famous Western teenage singer looking on helplessly and then then weeping in an over crowded clinic filled with stricken mothers watching their babies dying of malaria. But maybe that trip will prove to be the best inoculation against the worst that celebrity culture has to offer. A reminder of what true riches are: clean water; enough to eat; healthcare and education; a family who haven't died of AIDS.

For those brought up in the age of Live Aid and Make Poverty History, Jesus' words about the poor are difficult to negotiate. Perhaps he simply states a fact. Watching Comic Relief for 25 years is ample proof that despite the millions given, despite a mosquito net costing just £5; every day, in one clinic in one small area of Uganda, 30 children are admitted suffering from preventable malaria. Not all will survive. Presumably this was true 25 years ago. And it's still true today. Despite all that money. In fact, James Corden is now shouting on the TV screen: 'Comic Relief has raised £800 million over 25 years and NOTHING HAS CHANGED. 'The poor you will always have with you.' 

So I have endured a sketch about Simon Cowell marrying...himself; a British teenage heartthrob blowing is nose on his T shirt and a spoof Archbishop of Canterbury giving a homily in which he informs us that if we give to Comic Relief this represents 'Christianity in action'. Did they get advice from a religious affairs correspondent on this one because despite Jesus' awkward realism, I think the 'Archbishop' may be right.

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