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22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – And Who – Exactly – Are the Poor?

WHO are the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind? Its not just about a lack of money.

I read some of Pope Francis’ recent reflections of the Gospel from the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time.  In examining the deeper needs of the “poor, crippled, lame and blind,” the Holy Father says that it is really an issue of “stewardship.”  This leads us to look deeper into Jesus’ words and see how they apply to us at this time. In this respect we can ask the questions of “Who, What, Why and Where.”

Who are the “poor, crippled, lame and blind?” They’re all around us, maybe sitting in your very pew at church.

The poor is a recently fired 55 year old man who is healthy and an good worker but doesnt have the chance to acquire new technology skills.

The crippled is a single mom with a job opportunity bit who lacks any means of transportation to get her to work and her children to child care.

The lame is a man looking for a job but is simply stuck. Exhausted, discouraged, depressed.

The blind is a talented women who lacks social graces and constantly blows up her opportunities and doesn’t have a loving, patient, mentor to coach her on what to do and say, and what NOT to do and say, in particular circumstances.

WHAT does it mean to invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind? This is the idea of stewardship according to Pope Francis. It is an idea rooted in the social justice teaching of the Catholic Church and reflected in papers and encyclicals such as:

  • Rerum Novarum “On The Working Class” by Leo 13th 1891
  • Laborem Excercens “On Human Work” JP 2 1981
  • Centessimus Annus. JP 2 1991
  • Business Executives for Economic Justice “Buck Stops Here” on business stewardship 1997
  • Labor Day Statement 2013 Bishop Stephen E. Blaire, Bishop of Stockton CA – Chairman, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development

WHY were these documents written:

  • To  stimulate thinking
  • To prompt concrete action
  • To address real issues about people, products, community, environment, social fabric, philanthropy, education, human relations, civil rights, works of mercy.

couple hands

These are all such big issues. They can  seem overwhelming. So WHERE do we go from here? Where do we start?

INTERNALLY: We can reflect on these 4 points in our personal prayer life:

  1. Possession of material goods is not an absolute right.
  2. Ownership of goods is based on the law of the common purpose of those goods.
  3. One danger exists in the belief – that a free-market society can achieve a greater satisfaction of material human needs – while excluding spiritual values.
  4. A second danger exists in the dazzle of opulence which is beyond our reach.

EXTERNALLY, we come to realize that “stewardship” is people …

  1. Simply extending themselves (with simple manners)
  2. At a higher level, this might mean enriching others lives by exercising talents, resources and energies that we already have where we are. (Do what you are doing, bloom where you’re planted)
  3. At the highest level, we can join with other in a systematic way, helping to make possible opportunities for others on a grander scale. (Like the  collective efforts from thousands of churches,  organizations and volunteers to offer immediate short-term aid and to bring about systemic changes after Katrina and Sandy)

We can’t do it all, but we can do something. The start is our own personal prayer conversation with the Lord. He will lead from there.

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