Mercy Mondays

Caring for the Poor

By Ryan Lents | Monday, September 19, 2016

The sacred Scriptures make abundantly clear that the poor hold a special place in God’s heart. In fact, Jesus starts his public ministry by proclaiming that the Lord “has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor” (Luke 4:18). In the final judgment discourse, Jesus goes even further, declaring, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). Clearly as Christians, we are called to be in right relationship with those experiencing poverty, be it economically, spiritually, or physically. The challenge for us all is how we practice solidarity in a world that constantly casts the poor aside, often making them invisible.

For me, the spiritual practice of almsgiving offers a helpful tool for remembering the poor (that’s right – it’s not just for Lent!). On a personal level, almsgiving continually challenges me to examine my finances and ask if the poor and the vulnerable are a priority in how I use my resources. Participating in Operation Rice Bowl, a program of Catholic Relief Services that is organized by our Office of Human Dignity and Solidarity, is a wonderful example of this. Almsgiving also involves offering acts of charity and justice. Many of our initiatives, including the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, Immigration Ministry, Amate House, Respect Life Ministry, and Kolbe House Jail Ministry, help our parishes and Archdiocese to support the most vulnerable in our society. The foundation of all almsgiving, whether it be charitable giving or working for justice, must be rooted in prayer, for prayer draws us into communion with Christ, who himself was poor.

As a Catholic, I’m particularly proud to be part of a tradition that claims us all to be God’s beloved children, made in the image and likeness of God. If we are truly bound together as a common human family, this necessarily means that we have a responsibility to be our brother’s and sister’s keepers, regardless of our national, economic, racial, or ideological differences. As this Jubilee Year of Mercy continues on, let us reaffirm our love of Christ by upholding human dignity and solidarity in our personal lives, our communities, and our world.

Mercy Challenge

Examine how you might keep a preferential option for the poor in your daily life this week. Here are some suggestions:

  • Donate money or goods to organizations that respond to the needs of the poor.
  • Research groups in your neighborhood that are doing impactful work, and ask you how you can get involved.
  • Advocate for legislation and programs that strengthen the social safety net.
  • When you encounter someone experiencing material or spiritual poverty, offer them the attention and dignity they deserve.

Ryan Lents is the Director of the Office for Human Dignity and Solidarity.