( The following
was prepared by Gerald on behalf of, and with the support of
a diocesan Committee on Social Justice. It was prepared after
our Bishop asked us to draft a letter he could distribute to all
parishes in the Diocese with a message on Social Justice. We
were thrilled at the opportunity and met several times to put together
the ideas, and Gerald was given the task of drafting the letter itself. The
document was presented to the Bishop at a Dicesan Pastoral Council
Meeting and nothing was ever heard of it again! After a while
the members of that committee decided to disband and put thir efforts
to promoting the message of social justice more effectively in their
own parishes and lives and abandon the fruitless efforts at the diocesan
CHOOSING THE POOR
Empowered by our
baptism we are called to carry forward the work of Jesus into our own
times. We have heard these words or similar expressions many times
in the past. Frequently this call to be faithful to the mission of
our baptism lacks the focus and impact that will drive us to specific
decisions and to specific actions.
When Jesus walked
on this earth he was often confronted with situations where some people
had power and control over things that affected their lives. We call
these people "rich".
He also saw many
people who were powerless to control the things that affected them.
Perhaps they were ill, perhaps a widow with no means of support, perhaps
persons cast out from the community because they were lepers or tax
collectors, or perhaps they were individuals so enslaved to things
of this world that they were unable to let go. We can call these people "poor".
We can ask ourselves,
who are the "rich" and "poor" of today's world?
We need to know.
We must pray and
ask Jesus to help us look at our lives and our world with his eyes.
We must look to sacred scripture to find that vision of Jesus. We must
ask Jesus to heal our own blindness so that we can see the poverty
within our own spirits and within our own communities. He will give
us new eyes.
The Church in Latin
America has called on the members of Christ's Body to declare their
solidarity with the poor, to prefer the poor and the powerless and
to bring to them the healing, warmth and support of God's love in our
time as Jesus himself did in his time within time.
To declare our support
and solidarity with the poor will focus us on a fundamental characteristic
of Christ's Mission. Such a declaration will challenge us to examine
whether the Body of Christ today acts with the same love, zeal and
focus of the historical Jesus.
The Holy Spirit gives
us new eyes that enable us to see as Jesus sees. This same Holy Spirit
gives us courage to respond to the challenging needs of Christ's wounded
body. This Spirit of Love lets us act with sensitivity and respect
and so that we can bring healing and power to the wounded and to the
Jesus saw the rich who had power to affect the course of their lives and he
saw the poor who lacked that power.
Always Jesus reached
out to the poor and he chose to walk with the poor. He restored to
them the power they lacked. Sometimes it was the power of a healed
body. Sometimes it was the power of restored self esteem. Sometimes
it was the power to overcome selfishness and greed. Jesus always opted
for the poor.
Jesus came to free
the enslaved, to heal the sick in body and mind and to bring the good
news that God loves us.
We, as church, as
Christ's Body, are sealed and sworn to continue Christ's mission. We
are called to choose the poor and to empower them to become free to
experience the love of God.
To free the poor
can mean many things. It can mean helping the alcoholic to sobriety.
It can mean helping children to have the food they need to grow into
healthy adults as God intended. It can mean supporting the outcasts
of our society, defending their rights, and restoring their dignity
through our love. It can mean feeling the pain of the frightened and
oppressed in our own country and around the world--- and it can mean
always seeking ways to release them from these troubles.
It does mean, most
fundamentally, a critical re-evaluation of our lives, of our church,
and of our world so that we can recognize the poverty within ourselves
as individuals and within our communities -- and then it means responding
according to the insights that God will surely give us.
Let us declare ourselves
to be in solidarity with Christ. Let us declare ourselves to be in
solidarity with the poor, for surely that is where Christ wants us
Let this image of
Christ's saving action give life and warmth to the whole body of which
we are members.
As a single people,
as a single community, let us take these steps courageously knowing
that we walk these steps with Jesus. He has walked them before us and
he knows the way.