Treating the Poor with Compassion and Justice


(Job 29:11-16; Psalm 112; Acts 11:19-30; John 15:12-17)

The readings for today speak to God’s compassion and identification with the poor and needy. I rescued the poor who cried for help (Job 29:12), I was eyes to the blind, feet to the lame; I was father to the needy and I took up the case of the stranger. (Job29:15 &16) Psalm 112:9 refers to the righteous that trust in the Lord, freely give gifts to the poor. We are told in the book of Acts that the disciples contributed as much as they were able to collect to provide for those affected by famine in Judea. All of this may be summed up with the great commandment to love one another as Christ did by laying down his life for us his friends. (John15:12).

The message of these readings and the overall teaching of our scriptures should invite us to review our own treatment of the poor and needy amidst us and examine the ways in which we can help them. We make a mistake if we were to dismiss them using the relative standard or by spiritualizing their problem. We also make a mistake if we do not connect poverty and alienation to the structures and dynamics of Power.

It is our Christian obligation, our sacred duty to proclaim Christ and to free people from all kinds of oppression. This includes evangelizing the systems and structures of the world. In other words, engaging in social transformation is an equally important role as bringing people to the saving knowledge of Christ.

Wherever we may be, whatever responsibilities we may hold, we are called as disciples of Christ to free the less privileged and marginalized people from all kinds of bondages, some of it is not their making but socially constructed. It is our sacred duty to reconstruct the world on the basis of kingdom values of justice, and peace.

We are also directed by our faith and tradition to review our attitude to wealth. There is enough for everyone to meet their needs, but not enough to meet their greed. That which is over accumulated does not only rot but generates envy and enmity, creates divisions and conflicts. Whoever takes the command of Jesus ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ seriously, says St.John Chrysostum, owns no more than his neighbour does.  ‘The rich man who hesitates to respond to the challenge of poverty is in fact hesitating to respond to the offer of the Kingdom of God and its righteousness.’ According to St.Augustine, there is no excuse for the rich not to share.  ‘The rich is duty bound to part with their superfluous wealth in favour of the poor. ‘

In line with Jesus’ manifesto as found in Luke 4:16-19, let us proclaim and practice God’s favour  to the poor and needy, and this involves not just acts of charity but also of justice.

Prayer for the poor by Mother Teresa: Make us worthy Lord, to serve those people throughout the world who live and die in poverty and hunger. Give them through our hands, this day, their daily bread, and by our understanding love, give them peace and joy. Amen