FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
OUR THEME FOR 2015
A PREFERENTIAL OPTION FOR THE POOR
September 6, 2015
The mission of Jesus is to bring glad tidings to the poor. That is just in line with who God is and what God does and intends to do. God is He who “secures justice for the oppressed, who gives bread to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind. The Lord raises up those who are bowed down; … The Lord protects the resident alien, comes to the aid of the orphan and the widow” (Ps 146:7-8a,9a).
So Jesus came into the world to win for us our salvation and to bring total liberation, not just to humanity but to all of creation. “Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you.” (Is 35:4b). What is the effect, or what should be the effect? “Then the eyes of the blind shall see, and the ears of the deaf be opened” (Is 35:5). This is literally what Jesus did for and to the deaf man (Mk 7:32-35).
But that is not all. There is much more as to the effect of God’s liberation. But how are the poor to be liberated? What does the work with the poor entail? Total liberation includes economic liberation, political liberation and environmental liberation (please read my book “Freeing the Captives”). With the latter for example, what does God intend to happen? People are healed and creation is restored to the wonderful world God created. “Then the lame shall leap like a stag, and the mute tongue sing for joy. For waters will burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the Arabah. The burning sands will become pools, and the thirsty ground, springs of water; the abode where jackals crouch will be a marsh for the reed and papyrus.” (Is 35:6-7).
God loves the poor. God has a preferential option for the poor. Jesus healed the sick, and showed his dominion over creation (e.g. calming the storm at sea). Now he has left the continuation of his work to us his people, his body on earth. What have we done? We have oppressed the poor and we have degraded the environment.
We? Do I mean the world that is in darkness? Yes, certainly a sinful world, where the poor are oppressed, deprived and exploited. But no, I do mean we, the people of God, the so-called Christians. What is truly the place of the poor in the Church? Are not the powerful politicians and the rich donors often the favored ones? “For if a man with gold rings on his fingers and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say, ‘Sit here, please,’ while you say to the poor one, ‘Stand there,’ or ‘Sit at my feet,’ have you not made distinctions among yourselves” (Jas 2:2-4a)?
What does that say about such Catholics? You have “become judges with evil designs” (Jas 2:4b)! We have treated people according to worldly standards, that are in stark contradiction to the standards of God. In the world the rich and powerful are extolled and accorded places of honor. In the Kingdom of God, that privilege belongs to the poor. “Listen, my beloved brothers. Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him? (Jas 2:5).
Thus, if we are to be true Christians, if we are to continue the mission of Jesus to bring glad tidings to the poor, then “show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jas 2:1). Actually that is just the minimum. Because we are to show partiality, in favor of the poor. We are to have a preferential option for the poor.
Why are many Christians, including those of us who really love God and serve the cause of evangelization, not showing more fruitful results in our work? One reason is because we do not love the poor, or do not love the poor enough. If we have become judges with evil designs, then the God who loves the poor “thwarts the way of the wicked.” (Ps 146:9b).
One more thing. Jesus literally healed the deaf and mute man. Jesus needs to do the same to and for us, for we too are deaf and mute. We are deaf when we do not listen to the groanings of the poor, when we do not listen to the hard teachings of our Lord, and when we do not hear and heed God’s calling us to holiness and Christian perfection. We are mute when we do not speak out against injustice, and when we do not widely proclaim the salvation Jesus has already brought.
Consider this irony. To the crowd who witnessed the deaf man’s healing, Jesus “ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it.” (Mk 7:36). To us who are called to be witnesses to Jesus, we are commissioned and told to proclaim the good news, but we do not.
Let us do a wide work of evangelization. And let us do a wide work with the poor. Let us bring Christ into the darkened lives of people in the world. Let us bring his salvation and his liberation. And may we all proclaim: “The Lord shall reign forever; your God, Zion, through all generations! Hallelujah!” (Ps 146:10).
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