“The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want.”
Today’s quote, of course, is biblical – it’s Jesus speaking, from the book of Mark.
The same line also comes up in Matthew, and in John – but in those versions, we don’t get the “and you can help them whenever you want” line.
There may be some relevance to that omission, given today’s #travelpic
We were in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, on Good Friday – the holiest day of the year.
And we were walking around the Basilica Cathedral of Santa Maria la Menor, the first cathedral built anywhere in the Americas.
This magnificent church was started in 1512 – just 20 years after Columbus and his crew stumbled across the island of Hispaniola (later home to both the DR and Haiti).
It has 12 side chapels, three aisles, and a nave with a pitched roof. It also has a high altar chiselled out of silver, and a golden-tinted limestone coral facade.
Which made the juxtaposition with a crippled man begging for alms outside the rear of the church quite jarring.
The main entrance to the church was blocked off, and even the rear was inaccessible because of TV equipment set up to broadcast the Good Friday mass.
Leaning against the front wheel of one of those TV trucks – under a bust of Archbishop Merino who died more than a century ago – was one of the city’s poor, seeking alms.
It’s interesting to observe that the only beggars we saw in Santo Domingo were at churches. There were none in the streets, as seen in other countries.
But in the doorways of churches? The poor were there, just as Jesus promised, more than two thousand years earlier.
So, were churchgoers (and churches) following Jesus’ second injunction (to “help them any time you want”)?
That’s not something that I can answer from direct observation – but I know there are a huge number of charities (mostly Christian, although some secular) operating in Hispaniola – on both the Haiti and DR sides of the border.