See below for a link to an audio version of this post.
Are there conditions on who we serve? – Only the “good poor”?
In an earlier post Eastern Province confrere, John Prager, has a stark reminder. Christ calls us to serve the poor, not only “the good poor”!
In Vincentian Spirituality and Way of Life he continues…
At times we speak about being evangelized by the poor. I do not believe that we understand that phrase correctly. We are speaking about “the good poor”, those who go to Mass, live a good moral life, share from their own poverty. I believe that the call is to serve the poor, good and bad alike.
We cannot ask people if they are worthy or not of our service and then care for them according to their response.
Yes, even bad people will evangelize us and we are called to love those who are not so loveable.
It is often those who are not loveable who will put us in contact with our own sinfulness and weakness. Those who are not loveable invite us to be compassionate.
Jesus and the awareness of being loved
Look at who Jesus most often associates with. It is startling when they are listed all at once
- ‘the immoral’ (prostitutes and sinners)
- ‘the marginalized’ (lepers and sick people)
- ‘heretics’ (Samaritans and pagans)
- ‘collaborators’ (publicans and soldiers)
- ’the weak’ and ‘the poor’ (who have neither power nor knowledge)
He knew them all well. And had no illusions about not all being good. But that did not stop him from pouring out his life for all of the above! Jesus did not set preconditions for his encounters. He met people where they were. and gave up his life for both the good and the bad. He showed them all how they were loved!
Our call is to serve the poor, good and bad alike.
The wider context …”I am a sinner who is aware of being loved”
Neither St. Vincent nor Pope Francis required the poor to pass a test before loving them.
What one-word descriptions do you think Pope Francis and St. Vincent use to describe the whole of their lives? “Sinner” and “wretch”. Words that basically mean the same thing and certainly have negative connotations.
Pope Francis, without hesitation, when asked who he was said simply “I am a sinner”. His personal motto reinforces that “Miserando atque eligendo”. In substance it means, God has mercy on me; God chose to love me. And then there is St. Vincent. Some 150 times he described himself as a “wretched sinner”. He often said he only had one sermon – the love of God!
I have come to realize that for them, the words “I am a sinner” are a “badge of honor” revealing their awareness of being loved by God.
So in serving the poor … both good and bad…we are sharing with them the awareness of unconditional love that we ourselves take for granted.
Questions for each of us…
- Do we unconsciously isolate ourselves from others who are different from ourselves?
- How do those who think and act differently challenge us to grow?
- Are we aware of showing them that they are loved just as we have been loved?
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