FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
NO ONE IN NEED
GOD’S PREFERENCE FOR THE POOR
January 14, 2014
Today’s reading: 1 Samuel 2:1-8
Hannah knew God as someone who had a preferential option for the poor. This was obvious from the way “Hannah prayed” (v.1a). God loves the poor. God desires to overturn the sorry lot of the poor. Those who unjustly deprive the poor of what is rightfully theirs ought to watch out.
There are three realities.
One, God loves the poor and will be there to help the poor. “He raises the needy from the dust; from the ash heap lifts up the poor” (v.8a).
Two, not content with that, God intends to raise the poor to glory, if not in this life then in the next. He intends “to seat them with nobles and make a glorious throne their heritage.” (v.8b).
Three, if the rich and powerful continue to unjustly deprive the poor of what is theirs, God will overturn both their situations. Mary in her Canticle said that God has “dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.” (see Lk 1:51b-53). Hannah, centuries before, said, “The bows of the mighty are broken, while the tottering gird on strength. The well-fed hire themselves out for bread, while the hungry no longer have to toil.” (v.4-5a).
Who is this God who loves the poor?
First, He is all-knowing, as He is the Almighty Creator. “For an all-knowing God is the Lord” (v.3b). He knows the circumstances of all the lives of all the people on the earth. The rich should not be so arrogant as to think that God overlooks their sins. The poor should not be so desperate as not to know that God knows their situation and cares for them.
Second, He has absolute power over everything. “The Lord puts to death and gives life, casts down to Sheol and brings up again.” (v.6). In the world it seems that worldly powers are the ones in control. But they are not; God is. God just allows them to function, according to His own purposes. Knowing God has absolute control gives us hope and helps us keep faith.
Third, He watches over us and will judge what we do and how we live. He is “a God who weighs actions.” (v.3c). Our actions will have consequences. Our good works will matter, even though they seem unappreciated. The unjust will be punished, even though they seem to flourish.
Fourth, He decides what is best for us. “The Lord makes poor and makes rich, humbles, and also exalts.” (v.7). The way God thinks is very far from the way we think. We like to be rich and to be exalted. But God often shows us the blessing of poverty and being humbled. Unfortunately, we often cannot see the value of what God wants for us, and so we reject it.
What then are we to do? How are we to respond to such a God?
One, we always look to God. “There is no Holy One like the Lord; there is no Rock like our God.” (v.2). We do not go on our own strength. In the call to holiness, we look to God. In having a solid foundation for our life and mission, we look to God. We always look to being used by God as His instruments. It is not what we want in life, what our priorities are, but what God wants, what His priorities are.
Two, since we are nothing apart from God, we must not fall into pride because of our human accomplishments and resources. “Speak boastfully no longer, do not let arrogance issue from your mouths.” (v.3a). We only trust in God and never on ourselves. We only look to God’s grace and strength and wisdom and never to our human resources. And when God uses us powerfully, we must never become proud or boastful or even arrogant.
Three, in our work of evangelization and service to the poor, we look to God’s grace and strength to provide us the victory. “I have swallowed up my enemies; I rejoice in your victory.” (v.1c). It was Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection that gave us the victory in overcoming the works of the enemy. We stand on that victory! Work with the poor is very hard, very demanding, entailing lots of sacrifice, often pain, even rejection and lack of appreciation. Wait! That is what Jesus underwent in going to the cross! That is indeed the path to victory.
We are empowered to witness. To witness to the poor. To witness to the world about justice. What a privilege! “My heart exults in the Lord, my horn is exalted by my God.” (v.1b). The horn is a symbol of power. We exult in the Lord, giving Him worship and obedience, and in turn our God gives us power and strength.