Sometime in February 2015 I wrote a reflection on Poverty with two accompanying poems. One poem had to do with the personal acceptance of seeking a life without attachment to any type of material possessions; i.e. the choice of finding a connection to God without distractions of competing with oneself for treasures without meaning. The other poem, however, dealt with those, who through no fault of their own, for the most part, were living or existing in a life of miserable status and going nowhere.
This reflection will undertake the lifestyle of many in our modern society who find themselves barely existing from day to day, seeking bits of food or scraps no one else wants and with no knowledge or understanding of what it means to have self-esteem, self-confidence, or self-motivation. I don’t believe anyone reading this would be willing to trade what they have no matter how little for a life reflected in the following prose.
Case # 1: A mother gets up on a cold wintry day and prepares what little she has for breakfast to feed her three children. Michael is 13 years old and begins his new year at the local middle school. Corrine is 10 and starts a new class at her old elementary school and Clifford is 8 and doesn’t like the idea of returning to his former school because he was always picked on by the older kids. They all sit down to a meager meal of oats and some milk. They ask for toast but there is none left after the weekend of some food from the local food-pantry. She ushers them out for the school bus with no lunch pails since there was not enough money to even get small morsels for their upcoming lunches.
This woman, single and trying to raise three children on a very small pay she gets from doing servile work for a neighbor, who by the way isn’t too well off as well. There is just enough to pay for minimal food and essentials since the welfare takes care of her rent, utilities, and other basic social activities. She, like so many others, lives in a welfare state of existence that would sadden most sincere and understanding people. Why, in a country like we live in, are there so many poor among the rich and famous, so to speak? We can see the distinction between classes and know what Jesus meant when He said “the poor you will always have with you!”
Case # 2: John, a homeless man who stands on the corner by the church each day waiting for someone to just say "hello" or "can I give you a lift somewhere?". He isn’t begging for food or money, but is looking for a kind word or recognition from anyone who is gracious enough to care. How many times have you walked by a stranger and said hello or extended a greeting that implies he or she is important enough the be recognized as a person? And how often is that greeting returned in a similar manner? I have seen more people respond in a positive way than not, and it makes me feel good that there are persons around that are definitely God-related in a way that says we care about each other. If more of that was done there wouldn’t be so much animosity towards one another and perhaps the need to fight or became angry with humanity would slowly be gone. God would be happy and perhaps we would find less un-peacefulness in the world. This would become the decline of a impoverished action that decries many of us who want to make the world we live in more compatible for all.
Case # 3: Instead of a poverty stricken person, I am adding a lesson I taught using Luke’s Gospel on the poor.
The word “poor” as used in Luke’s Gospel refers back to the Magnificat where Mary says; “He has exalted the lowly” (Lk. 1:52). In the pronouncement of Jesus at Nazareth, “He has sent me with the commission to announce good news to the poor.” (Lk. 4:18). Also it is found in (6:20) Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Once again, “poor people are being told good news.” (7:22).
Lowly is sometimes a better replacement for poor. These are those who become disenfranchised, unable to assert themselves or fit into society. See Psalm 75: 8; “But God is the Judge, one he brings low; another he lifts up.”
Jesus has come as a champion to lift the burden from not belonging to being mainstreamed into life. Status, money, or prestige are no longer important. CF Is. 61: 1 ff; “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me, He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly……”.
During the great discourse (Lk. 6:20) Luke’s Sermon on the Plain: cf Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, Jesus raising His eyes to His disciples says; “Blest are you poor, the reign of God is yours.” See Dt. 24: 14, “You shall not defraud a poor and needy hired servant……”, and Psalm 37: 14, “A sword the wicked draw; they bend their bow to bring down the afflicted and the poor……..”, also Psalm 40: 18, “Though I am afflicted and poor, yet the Lord thinks of me.”
In response to John the Baptist’s disciples’ questions (Lk 7:22 ff) Jesus says, “……..and the poor have the good news preached (proclaimed) to them.” See Is. 35:4, “Say to those whose hearts are frightened: “Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, He comes with vindication; with divine recompense He comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; Then the lame will leap like a stag, then the tongue of the deaf will sing. Streams will burst forth in the desert and the rivers in the steppe. The burning sands will become pools, and the thirsty ground springs of water.”
The poor are God’s chosen since He alone really cares for them. Let us become God’s hands and eyes to relieve the burden of the lowly and show them the way to salvation by pointing to the freedom of justice to come.