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(Part 12)


March 10, 2014

Today’s readings:
Leviticus 19:1-18
Matthew 25:31-46

God commanded His people Israel: “Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.” (Lv 19:2). Today God commands and expects the same holiness of His people. We become holy by obeying God’s precepts, by observing His statutes. What are those?

God’s commands are varied--from revering mother and father, and keeping the sabbath (Lv 19:3), to not turning aside to idols (Lv 19:4), to not stealing or speaking falsely of another (Lv 19:11), to not hating kindred (Lv 19:17a). But what is significant is God’s preference for the poor. The Israelites are commanded to:

  • Leave unharvested portions of fields and vineyards when they reap, which the poor can then take (Lv 19:9-10).
  • Not withhold overnight the wages of a laborer (Lv 19:13c).
  • Not insult the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind (Lv 19:14).

A few other commands, not addressed directly to conduct toward the poor, would have the greater effect on the poor.

  • “You shall not steal.” (Lv 19:11a). One who takes what is more than his just share of the world’s goods and refuses to share with those in need in effect steals what God intended for that poor person.
  • “You shall not exploit your neighbor.” (Lv 19:13a). Oftentimes the rich exploit the poor, whether speaking of individuals or nations.
  • “You shall not act dishonestly in rendering judgment.” (Lv 19:15a). Oftentimes the poor are not accorded just treatment in courts of law due to their poverty and lack of power or connections.
  • “You shall not go about spreading slander among your people.” (Lv 19:16a). The rich and powerful unjustly criticize and malign the poor for, as they claim, being irresponsible in having too many children, or being too lazy to work, or being prone to commit crime.
  • “nor shall you stand by idly when your neighbor’s life is at stake.” (Lv 19:16b). The world in effect stands by idly while many in poor countries are literally dying of hunger, even as the world has surplus resources it can share.
  • “You shall not hate any of your kindred in your heart.” (Lv 19:17a). Population controllers disdain the poor, feverishly working to limit the populations especially of poorer nations, through contraception, abortion, sterilization and euthanasia.

Now God commands. If we do not obey, we can expect to be punished. But little do most people know how severe the punishment would be. Jesus tells about the judgment at the end of time, when “all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” (Mt 25:32). The sheep on the right will be blessed by the Father and will inherit the kingdom (Mt 25:34). The goats on the left will be sent “off to eternal punishment” (Mt 25:46a).

What will be the one criterion? It will be how we treated Jesus. Jesus? Yes. In how we treated the poor. Jesus identifies himself with the poor. The criterion will be whatever we did or did not do to the poor. “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Mt 25:40). “Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.” (Mt 25:45).

What are we supposed to do for the poor? Jesus says, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” (Mt 25:35-36).

Thus in CFC-FFL we have our Core Value of “Living a Preferential Option for the Poor.” This is why we have our No One in Need (NONe) movement. This is why we have our prison ministry. This is why we have our massive evangelization of the grassroots, so that we can bring those who are strangers to the Kingdom into the Church and welcome them as our brethren.

Work with the poor is critical work. It is part of our path to holiness. And it is the path that will bring “the righteous to eternal life.” (Mt 25:46b).

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