Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Treasure the poor: 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

            St. Lawrence lived in the third century when the Church was being heavily persecuted by the Romans.  The pope had just been arrested when Lawrence, the head of seven deacons in Rome and responsible for the Church’s possessions, was approached by a Roman prefect.  This prefect demanded that Lawrence hand over the Church’s riches to the Romans.  Lawrence responded by saying it would take a few days to assemble and went out to gather the poor and sick of the city.  When the prefect returned, expecting to be handed material items, Lawrence pointed to the poor and said, “These are the sole and greatest treasure of the poor.”
            Do you treasure the poor?
            In our responsorial psalm we sang, “Lord, in your goodness, you have made a home for the poor.”  Jesus teaches in a similar vein in the Gospel: “…when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you…”
            We are blessed with rich Catholic social teaching.  One of the seven themes of this philosophy is the preferential option for the poor and vulnerable.  We are not called to tolerate the poor, nor simply serve them.  We are to prefer them.  We do so by being generous with our time, talents and treasures.  We do so not by giving our leftovers or out of our abundance, but as Mother Theresa said, to give until it hurts.
            This can be challenging in our country which is polarized in seemingly every social issue.  This either/or mentality has seeped into our Church and I have seen this first hand on college campuses in our state.  Every college has a social justice group.  On Catholic campuses, many have a student group based on the Catholic faith.  And heaven forbid that they would actually work together!  We do not believe we are faith or charitable works.  We ought to live with both faith and charitable works.  And this isn’t an option…it is who we are.  It was who Jesus was.
            We have seen a wonderful witness to this way of living in Pope Francis.  Here is a man deeply in love with God, His Church, prayer and the sacraments.  At the same time he visits slums, feeds the poor in soup kitchens and goes to the sick in hospitals.
            I pray that you will experience the integration of your faith and service to the poor, and in so doing, make the poor your treasure.

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