Theoretically the poor are for the Church what they were for Jesus: the preferred ones, the first who must attract our attention and interest. But it’s just in theory, since in fact it’s not like that. And it’s not a question of ideas, but of sensitivity in the face of the suffering of the weak. Theoretically every Christian would say that they are on the side of the poor. The question is to know what place they really occupy in the life of the Church and of Christians.
Truly – and it needs to be said loudly – in the Church there are many, very many persons, groups, organizations, congregations, missionaries, lay volunteers who don’t only concern themselves with the poor, but who are driven by the spirit of Jesus to dedicate their entire life and even risk it in order to defend the dignity and rights of the most needy, but what is our general attitude in the Christian communities of the First World?
Meanwhile it’s no big problem that we only try to give some help or a donation. The almsgiving calms us so we can keep having a good conscience. The poor start to make us restless when they oblige us to ask ourselves what level of living we can allow ourselves to have, knowing that each day no less than 70,000 people die of hunger in the world.
But generally among us hunger and misery aren’t so visible. What’s more obvious is the unjustly marginalized lives and lack of dignity of the poor. In practice the poor of our society lack the rights the rest of us have; they don’t deserve the respect that every normal person deserves; they represent nothing important for almost no one. To meet up with them annoys us. The poor unmask our great speeches about progress and put squarely in the light of day the stinginess of our charity. They don’t let us have a good conscience.
The Gospel episode in which Jesus praises the poor widow leaves us shamefaced who live satisfied in our well-being. Maybe we give something of what is left over, but this woman who «was in need» knows how to give «all that she has to live on». How many times it’s the very poor who best teach us to live with more dignity and with a great and generous heart.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf