“For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.” (NRSV) Matthew 26:11
Squarely, in front of the doors of the Central Bank of Costa Rica, in San Jose, stands the sculpture “Monument Los Presentes” (Monument To Those Present). Upon seeing it for the first time, I was profoundly struck by its location. In order to transact bank business, high-powered bank officers, government officials, and other business people must daily pass nine life-size figures, representing Costa Rican peasants personifying typical inhabitants of the Central Valley. They stand as firm, immutable. static witnesses to those in danger of disappearing due to modernization. I learned that this placement was deliberate. It is to remind those positions of power who they are working for and affecting by their various decisions – “you always have the poor with you.”
Upon returning home, I heard a sermon on that Matthew text. But rather than being a message of hopelessness in the face of poverty, the preacher asked us to see it as a call to “keep the poor with you”, a reminder that in the absence of him physically, Jesus has left them for our love and care. For me, this unforgettable sculpture will always remind me of the poor and powerless who are easily forgotten by those of “higher position” and more power. They will always be with us. It is we who are called to love and serve them on his behalf.
Prayer: Lord of Creation, help us to always remember the “least of these”; those who are in need of your love and our compassion. Amen
Deaconess Deb Lennox, Georgetown, DE