Saturday, October 11, 2008

Preferential Option for the Poor (Sunday Homily)

When Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians,
he was in prison. He did not know if he’d be set free,
or if he would be executed.
He was powerless; he had no choice
but to depend on others to provide his needs.

When Scripture talks about being poor,
this is primarily what it means:
not so much about what stuff we have,
but about being powerless and dependent.

This is why the Lord said,
“blessed are the poor in spirit”—
not that it’s blessed to go hungry; rather, it’s a blessing
to understand we depend completely on God.

The illusion we have control runs deep—
especially in our country.
So when we see the financial structure
of our nation and the world wobble, we can’t believe it:
Can it all really be that fragile? Yes!

Saint Paul has exactly the right answer:
whether I am well fed or hungry, I have Jesus Christ!

Meanwhile, people out of work,
folks in danger of losing their homes,
families going without food—demand our attention.
If we are headed into a recession as it appears,
such needs will demand a lot more of our attention
during the next year or so.

One important part of our Catholic Faith is called
“the preferential option for the poor.”

I am not poor. Thanks to you,
I have all my needs supplied.

I am considered “respectable”—
if I walk into a store or a restaurant,
no one tags me as “suspicious” and follows me around.
When I go and pray in the chapel,
no one shifts around uncomfortably.

The preferential option for the poor
helps to correct for all the ways
that those who are poor and powerless
get the short end of the stick.

Let me cite an example.
On the ballot is a measure concerning “pay day loans.”
These places will lend you money against your paycheck.
But the interest you pay is extremely high,
far higher than even credit card rates.
You don’t go there unless you have no other alternative.
But if you’re already in the hole…?
On the other hand, if we outlaw these places,
people who work there will lose their jobs;
and someone less savory
will step forward to make these loans.

So what do we do?
If nothing else, we recognize that the needs of the poor
aren’t just government’s concern,
or the Bethany Center’s, or someone else’s—
but our personal concern.
We are our brother’s keeper.

As your pastor, I have an uneasy conscience about this, for two reasons.

First: I am aware of the contradictions involved
in using Bingo to raise money.
I’d love to find another way,
but I don’t want to torpedo our school in the process.
If someone has a solution, and will help make it happen?
Please let me know.

Second, I wonder if we doing enough?
Each parish has a St. Vincent de Paul fund, and you are generous.

But what do we do with that money?
Some we use for individual situations,
but most of it goes each month to
Bethany Center or Salvation Army.

They use your money to help people with food, clothes, or medicine,
and they give us an accounting each month
of how they spend the money.

But the original vision for the Saint Vincent de Paul Society
was that volunteers would take personal interest,
visiting those in need,
finding out what was going on in their lives.
Sister Joan and I have often talked about
trying to recapture that vision.
If you are interested, call Sister Joan.

Also, here are three ways you can help right now:
> The Bethany Center always needs workers.
November is St. Boniface’s month.
> The Piqua Compassion Network helps connect people in need
with a variety of sources of help.
They need people to answer the phones.
> The Sidney Women’s Center helps women in trouble,
often facing pressure to get an abortion.
They need level-headed people who can be mentors,
bringing calm and wisdom to troubled situations.

We know that Christ comes to us
in the person of the poor;
I don’t want to be guilty of brushing him off!
Christ is coming to our parishes in all those rough-edged folks
who walk up and down Broadway and Downing Streets.
What shall we do?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I'm so glad your homilies are back!!