Each week Ron received travel brochures from a plethora of travel companies. He usually tossed them diffidently into the circular file. Not this one.

This was “the trip of a lifetime for a special occasion” — 747 to Paris and TGV train to Chalon-sur-Sadne, then an eight-day river cruise on the Sadne and Rhone through the verdant fields of Burgundy and Provence, ending at the sunny Mediterranean port of Marseille. The trip, sponsored by his alma mater, was the right price at the right time — after Labor Day. Who wants to leave Maine in the summer? He could not wait to show his wife!

Yet as Ron ruminated the details of this wonderful vacation, he found himself nervously tapping the brochure against the side of his desk. Was it appropriate for him and his wife to go on this trip with his mother fighting resistant leukemia?

Chemotherapy had been ineffective. Now Ron’s mother spent several days each week in the hospital receiving transfusions and antibiotics. Too weak from fever and anemia, she always needed a ride to the hospital. At home, mom could barely manage meals and laundry.

It was hard being alone. Ron and his wife had been regularly assisting his mother throughout her ordeal, but was it right to spend time and money on travel when there was so much continuing distress in their family?

As I considered how to respond to Ron’s personal quandary, I noticed in this newspaper a thoughtful letter to the editor that broadened the perspective of this issue. A writer cogently questioned whether Christians should be attending a summer religious concert in New Hampshire with so much poverty around the world. For the cost of concert tickets for a family of three, a child in the Third World could be sponsored for a year through Compassion International or World Vision.

When speaking at churches regarding this issue, someone often responded to the letter writer, “We sponsor a child and have enough to go to Soulfest each summer.” To which the writer would retort, “Consider sponsoring a second child and skip the festival.”

How much fun should we have when others are suffering in our family or starving and dying in Somalia? There is a provocative biblical episode in the life of Jesus that occurred merely six days before he died on the cross that reflected this issue.

For months there was growing, palpable opposition by religious officials to Jesus’ teaching and ministry. On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus had already prophesied to his apostles what lay ahead: “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day, he will rise again” (Luke 19:31-33).

What did Jesus do in this setting? He went to a party! There, Mary, a friend and disciple of Jesus, broke open a pint jar of pure nard, an expensive perfume, poured it all on Jesus’ feet, and wiped his feet with her hair. One of his apostles, Judas Iscariot, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages” (John 12:3-5). Jesus chastised Judas, saying, “The poor you will always have among you, but you will not always have me” (Matthew 26:11).

Another witness quoted that Jesus added, “She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want” (Mark 14:6-7). Judas’ motivation was not based upon beneficence but on “thievery” (John 12:6) since he stole from the money bag. Soon thereafter he also betrayed Jesus.

This scene in the Bible dissolves simply without further catechizing by Jesus. We are left to decide for ourselves from the mise-en-scene how to balance our time and resources when others around us might be in distress and suffering from any cause. However, principles for our actions can be gleaned by the words and actions of Jesus. Though Jesus was deeply engaged in caring for the poor and the suffering and his own passion and death were only days away, he evinced there was still a place for enjoyment and beauty — perhaps even extravagance.

Ron and his wife went on their 12-day vacation to France — where they first met. They returned refreshed after celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary together.

Dr. Delvyn C. Case Jr. is a practicing hematologist/oncologist, writer, playwright and consultant to the Department of Spiritual Care at Maine Medical Center in Portland.