8.For the poor you have always with you. We must observe what I have already pointed out, that a distinction is here drawn expressly between the extraordinary action of Mary, and the daily service which is due to Christ. Those persons, therefore, are apes, and not imitators, who are desirous to serve Christ by costly and splendid display; as if Christ approved of what was done once, and did not rather forbid that it should be done afterwards.
But me you have not always. When he says, that he will not always be with his disciples, this ought to be referred to that kind of presence to which carnal worship and costly honors are suitable. For as to his presence with us by the grace and power of his Spirit, his dwelling in us, and also feeding us with his flesh and blood, this has nothing to do with bodily observances. Of all the pompous ceremonies which the Papists have contrived for the worship of Christ, in vain do they tell us, that they have bestowed them upon him, for he openly rejects them. When he says, that the poor will always be with us, though, by this saying, he reproves the hypocrisy of the Jews, yet we may learn from it a profitable doctrine; namely, that alms, by which the wants of the poor are relieved, are sacrifices acceptable, and of sweet savor, to God, and that any other kind of expense in the worship of God is improperly bestowed.