I start this with this Gospel passage from Matthew. It reminds us of our responsibility for each other and being non judgemental in our approach to all kinds of people.
Jesus said that the poor will be with us always. This does not mean that we do not do anything. That because the will always be with us that we can become complacent about helping those in need. If you google the definition of Poverty it is usually transpired as poverty being those who have little or no money. I have been thinking over the last few years that in fact there are other forms of poverty. St Vincent de Paul stated that Love has no option. God's love and care is not exclusive to one particular group of people.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states " The Church's love for the poor... is part of her constant tradition" This love is inspired by the Gospel of the Beatitudes, of the poverty of Jesus and his concern for the poor. Love for the poor is even one of the motives for the duty of working so as to be able to give to those in need. It extends not only to material poverty but also to the many forms of cultural and religious poverty"
The most interesting part of the statement from the Catechism is the last statement. IF we take the Gospel and this seriously everyone is our Brother and Sister and the image of Jesus Christ and also that the common idea of poverty needs to be expanded into other forms of poverty. Here below are a few of my ideas on the second part of this part may look like.
This is the one that we usually associate when we hear the word poverty. These are people who live on the edge of society with the lack of money. They may live in rented accommodation or Bedsits or live on the streets. Our helping hand with food or clothing goes a long way in relieving the stress of the day. The poverty that they are living is not always their fault. They have lived in circumstances that are beyond their control either with abusive parents or have found life difficult and find a way out by falling into the wrong sort of people. Walking along side these people can sometimes be very frustrating as sometimes their priorities are different from ours. I remember walking into a house where we had to give them food I was surprised to see the kids playing on their playstation on a very large TV. My first thought was that they were selfish but then they had to do something to relieve the stress of everyday living. The first rule is never to judge that is up to God we can only but help in whatever way we can.
This form of poverty is a little more vague. I preface this with a question? Where does true self esteem come from? If self esteem comes only from doing things then it will not last. We will get one knock and it will waver. No true self esteem comes from within and knowing one fundamental thing that we all have in common is that we are loved by God. Let me illustrate this with a story that happened to me a few days ago. I was out shopping in Lewes and I was looking in an antiques shop when I came across a set of Stations of the Cross. Being a priest I took notice of them. Just to say that I was not in my dog collar. The shop keeper asked why I was so interested. My friend then said that I was a priest. Then she asked me a question " Do you believe in God?" she asked. At first a strange question to ask a priest but then after some thought it was not a particular stupid question. I explained to her that I not only believed in God but I knew that he loved me very much and that made me happy knowing that God loved me. It gave me purpose to everything I do. After some discussion she then said " Thanks that lovely but I still do not believe in God."
" Thats ok!!" I said " because God believes on you." Spiritual poverty then is someone who cannot accept God's love for them. As Christians we are people who should be able to tell others about God's love for them.
I think that the biggest poverty in this is the poverty of indifference about God. These are people who just do not care. They have no questions they have no idea about what marvels the lord has done for them. They fill the vacuum of absence of God with other things usually things that are unhealthy.
The Spiritual Poor need careful attention. I get the feeling that they are searching but because of what life has thrown them they cannot accept God in their lives. How do we as Church help these people. We become as someone said to me once " God on legs" IT is by our love of God and how we act and how we are that we show others. Not by any formal teaching but by being Christian. They will see something in us that they want. Let me give you an example. One Easter day at Mass we were giving our Easter Eggs to the Children after Mass. There were as always to many children for the eggs. One little child came up and we had run out. Looking upset another Child gave him his. He said he had far too many at home so you have mine. Now this act of generosity was seen by visitors who were not Catholic and in fact were not even Christian. Seeing this act made them feel that they wanted to get to know this Christian God. The next year that family were received into the Church. An act of love is seen by others who want to be part of it.
In these people there is a need for instant gratification and affirmation. The only problem is that it only lasts a few minutes it is not lasting. As a Church and a community of faith we need to help people build lasting relationships. The most important relationship is our relationship with Jesus by helping people build and foster this relationship we can show them what it means to have a true and lasting relationships. To understand that they are loved by God and that they should love themselves as children of God. To do this means that they can then build good relationships with others. Often the problems of this poverty is linked back to self esteem.
Many people their poverty is very obvious. We as a community need to help these people to understand that they are still human being and have a role to play in society. They are not to left on the scrap heap. When I think of this poverty my mind is drawn to the life and especially to the later life of St John Paul II here was a man who was able to communicate in his illness and physical aliments the love of God and the power of witnessing to the cross through bearing our own crosses.
The Gospel reading that I had chosen for this look at poverty reminds us that each and everyone is our Brother and Sister. It also reminds us that many of us will full at some point in our lives into one of these categories. We help others because we are Christians because we see in our brothers and sisters Christ: Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’