Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: When we act in favor of the poor–either by providing housing and food and medical care or by helping them to build systems that provide those things–we are acting as the Father and Son have done for us.

Thursday of 1st week in Advent 2015

Joy of the Gospel

During the time of Advent, we look forward to the return of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The prophet Isaiah speaks of this “day of the Lord” as one based on the security provided the faithful by the Rock, the Lord God. The haughty and proud are laid low, and their pride is turned into dust. The meek and poor, by contrast, are set free to trample that pride. As Jesus said, the meek shall inherit the new earth in a new creation.

What is our part in this inevitable triumph? First, to not be part of the haughty and proud; second, to be part of the solution: loving our neighbor as ourselves. If we follow this command of the Lord, the house of our spiritual life will be built on that Rock that is Christ. Winds or floods or persecution will not blow it over or wash it away.

The Holy Father understands the import of this Gospel, as he continues his exhortation about our responsibility to the poor: ‘For the Church, the option for the poor is primarily a theological category rather than a cultural, sociological, political or philosophical one. God shows the poor “his first mercy” This divine preference has consequences for the faith life of all Christians, since we are called to have “this mind… which was in Jesus Christ” (Phil 2:5). Inspired by this, the Church has made an option for the poor which is understood as a “special form of primacy in the exercise of Christian charity, to which the whole tradition of the Church bears witness” This option – as Benedict XVI has taught – “is implicit in our Christian faith in a God who became poor for us, so as to enrich us with his poverty” This is why I want a Church which is poor and for the poor. They have much to teach us. Not only do they share in the sensus fidei, but in their difficulties they know the suffering Christ. We need to let ourselves be evangelized by them. The new evangelization is an invitation to acknowledge the saving power at work in their lives and to put them at the centre of the Church’s pilgrim way. We are called to find Christ in them, to lend our voice to their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to speak for them and to embrace the mysterious wisdom which God wishes to share with us through them.

‘Our commitment does not consist exclusively in activities or programs of promotion and assistance; what the Holy Spirit mobilizes is not an unruly activism, but above all an attentiveness which considers the other “in a certain sense as one with ourselves.” This loving attentiveness is the beginning of a true concern for their person which inspires me effectively to seek their good. This entails appreciating the poor in their goodness, in their experience of life, in their culture, and in their ways of living the faith. True love is always contemplative, and permits us to serve the other not out of necessity or vanity, but rather because he or she is beautiful above and beyond mere appearances: “The love by which we find the other pleasing leads us to offer him something freely” The poor person, when loved, “is esteemed as of great value” and this is what makes the authentic option for the poor differ from any other ideology, from any attempt to exploit the poor for one’s own personal or political interest. Only on the basis of this real and sincere closeness can we properly accompany the poor on their path of liberation. Only this will ensure that “in every Christian community the poor feel at home. Would not this approach be the greatest and most effective presentation of the good news of the kingdom?” Without the preferential option for the poor, “the proclamation of the Gospel, which is itself the prime form of charity, risks being misunderstood or submerged by the ocean of words which daily engulfs us in today’s society of mass communications”’

When we act in favor of the poor–either by providing housing and food and medical care or by helping them to build systems that provide those things–we are acting as the Father and Son have done for us. We were spiritually poor, if not materially so, and God acted to redeem us with the blood of the Lord Jesus. God acted, as Pope Benedict wrote, against His own best interest, in ours.

These are the days when St. Vincent de Paul and other Catholic charities are in greatest need. It is our responsibility to help–with prayer, with direct action and with our funds. God’s love is shown through our positive actions. Let me also suggest that helping our Catholic schools is a great way to help the poor. Contribute to the tuition of a poor student and maybe have a lifelong impact by inspiring that child with the Faith and giving him or her the skills needed to build a family and take a place in the Church militant.

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