Fr. Charles Irvin
THE POOR & UNNOTICED
Jesus cared, and cared deeply, about disparity between the rich and the poor. He was quite troubled about the attitudes of the “haves” amidst those who “have not”. Why are so many of the well-to-do so unconcerned about the poor and pay them so little heed?
And what of our own concerns? Do we have eyes to see those among us who are hurting and truly in need? We all have a temptation to think of the rich as other people who belong to the jet set, have homes in Acapulco, on the French Riviera and so forth. We think of those who live in palaces while the poor live in squalor a few blocks away. And we think of the poor as those unfortunates who live in doorways, under bridges and in shacks in our metropolitan ghettoes.
The only problem is that none of those people, either rich or poor, were present on that mountain in today’s Gospel account when Jesus was teaching. His audience was made up of ordinary people such as you and me. The thing that makes me uncomfortable is that Jesus was talking to US! We are the very people He had in mind! For Him, “rich” did not mean billionaires and “poor” was not descriptive of only those living in squalor.
Now all of us want to help the poor. There isn’t a soul here present who doesn’t. But I daresay many of us have become somewhat skeptical. We’re a little bit jaded by the claims made on us coming from those who are in need. I have to confess to you that I have been “conned”, and have been bilked out of a lot of money by some scam artists. And we are all fully aware of welfare fraud and the misuse of our tax dollars in the name of helping others. Too often our taxes end up in the pockets of those who help themselves to our taxes.
But does that relieve me of my Christian obligation to care for the poor? Does that excuse me from what Christ expects of me? I think not. In spite of whatever abuses can be reported, there are still those who need our help, our time and attention, and YES our money. Regardless of what our government does or does not do, regardless of federal or state government irresponsibilities, the Church cannot be Christ’s Church and ignore the poor among us.
And just who are the poor, anyway? What about those who are impoverished in ignorance. Poverty is the lack of ability to access power That idea is so important that I’m going to repeat it: Poverty is the lack of ability to access power.
The uneducated are poor – they are often held in an iron grip of poverty by their lack of knowledge and skills. Those who totally lack any sense of moral values, who have no moral and ethical framework in which to judge human actions are likewise victimized and powerless. They are morally out of control and live lives bordering on chaos. Then, too, there are those who have no one to love them, no one to care for them, no one to befriend them. Think of the grinding poverty of heart and spirit they must endure.
When you hear scripture passages quoted from the bible your first temptation is to immediately think that it’s talking about other people, either other people who lived thousands of years ago or other people who are not like you at all. If that’s the way you read scripture then you need to reconsider why you are reading it. For the truth is, God has a word for YOU; He has something He wants to say to YOU. And he says it when you read scripture as well as when you come to Mass and hear His word proclaimed to YOU.
So, then, who is “rich” and who is “poor” in your life? And what is Jesus saying to you about what you should do, especially when you consider that you have a share in His riches, eating rich food and drinking rich wine as you do here at His banquet table of life.