THE SERVANT GENERAL
LIVING A PREFERENTIAL OPTION FOR THE POOR
April 21, 2011
On this Holy Thursday, the
Lord brings us to Jesus’ mission of bringing glad
tidings to the poor. This is also part of our mission, and
“Living a Preferential Option for the Poor”
is one of our Core Values.
I reproduce herewith one
of the lessons of Lamentations, which is very much still
relevant, not just then, not just today, but for all time.
7 Aspects of the Nature of Work with the Poor
Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.”
social dimension of the gospel is part and parcel of our
evangelistic work and our mission. At the turn of the millennium,
in the year 2000, we proclaimed our mission to be that of
Jesus, to bring glad tidings to the poor. This is part of
our work, and so is part of our covenant with God. Work
with the poor is at the very heart of our covenant.
Lamentations 401 – Work with the poor
is at the very heart of God.
Our work for total human liberation again comes out of God’s
call to all Christians. Jesus instructed his disciples,
which include us, to continue his mission. “As the
Father has sent me, so I send you.” (Jn 20:21). And
what is Jesus’ mission? “The Spirit of the Lord
is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings
to the poor” (Lk 4:18). Then Jesus manifested the
coming of the kingdom by curing every disease and illness
(Mt 4:23), pointing to such work for liberation in all aspects
that are not of the perfect kingdom of God.
Lamentations 402 – Work with the poor
is at the very heart of Mary.
Jesus’ own mother, Mary, in her Magnificat, makes
it a point to cite God’s blessings upon the poor (Lk
1:52-53). In this inspired psalm of praise, Mary refers
to herself, to Israel, and to the poor (and conversely to
the rich and powerful). It is but natural to refer to the
first two, for Mary is the mother of God and Israel is our
elder brother in the faith, and so both are important in
the plan of God. But in her very short canticle, the poor
are also cited. The poor must indeed be very important too
in the plan of God.
Lamentations 403 – Work with the poor
is at the very heart of the two greatest commandments, at
the very core of our Christianity.
Jesus taught us about what is at the very core of the Christian
life, and that is the two greatest commandments, love of
God and love of neighbor. Jesus says that there are no other
commandments greater than these (Mk 12:31) and that on these
two depend the whole law and the prophets (Mt 22:40). Now
the two commandments go together. You cannot have one without
the other. John says that “If anyone says, ‘I
love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for
whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot
love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we
have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
(1 Jn 4:20-21)
Then John specifically identifies
such love as looking to brethren in need. “If someone
who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses
him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? Children,
let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.”
(1 Jn 3:17-18). In the same vein, James connects good works
or works of mercy with faith, emphasizing that faith without
such works is dead (Jas 2:14-17). So if we love God, if
we want to be true Christians, then we must look to the
needs of the poor.
Lamentations 404 – Work with the poor
is at the very heart of Christian community.
The first Christian community was a community of the poor,
but where there was no one in need due to fraternal sharing
(Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-35). This first Christian community
of the poor remains our model for community life today.
Such life of sharing and caring is in fact the ultimate
solution to poverty, oppression and injustice in the world.
Lamentations 405 – Work with the poor
is at the very heart of mission.
During the Council of Jerusalem, when the Church elders
discussed the work of evangelization and mission, Paul was
specifically told “to be mindful of the poor,”
which of course Paul was already eager to do (Gal 2:10).
In the grand work of winning the world for Christ, being
mindful of the poor is to be a crucial ingredient.
Lamentations 406 – Work with the poor
is at the very heart of our faith.
James realized something profound about our faith. He said,
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he
has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?
If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food
for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace,
keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them
the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith
of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (Jas
2:14-17). What does this say about Christians who pray for
the poor, have sympathy for the poor, pronounce blessings
upon the poor, but do not actually act in helping the poor
in their material needs? Their faith is dead! They are not
Lamentations 407 – Work with the poor
is at the very heart of our salvation.
And since such faith is dead, then we can understand better
Jesus’ parable about the judgment of the nations at
the end of time, where those who do not look to the needs
of the poor are condemned to hell. In this very clear parable,
the only criterion for entry into heaven, and conversely
for damnation in hell, is what we did for the least of our
brethren (Mt 25:31-46).
(taken from 40 Days of Lamentations)