Quick Lessons from the Catechism: Love For the Poor

Last night as I was checking my Twitter account, I came upon this article entitled, Barack Obama: Catholic and Evangelical Churches Care More About Abortion Than the Poor. As I read it and shook my head in disbelief, I found it the perfect opportunity to teach you what the Catholic Church actually teaches about service to the poor.

This current US Administration is so out of touch with the people of this country and has no understanding of history, or even current events (see the link at the very end). Remember the comments on the Crusades? Yeah, he was wrong then and he is wrong now. The overall issue is rooted in a lack of understanding – service to poor with love, defending human life at all stages, and standing up for traditional marriage – it’s all the same Truth!

When your view of the human person is distorted, as it is with many in this administration, everything else in the world is also distorted. Their worldview focuses on themselves (i.e. narcissism) and not on the human person and the common good. Not that they would do this, since it would disprove their arguments before they began, but maybe whoever is writing the speeches should actually do some research on what the Catholic Church teaches on these topics.

Before I descend deeper into this rabbit hole, which can be done easily talking about the lack of common sense we seem to witness on a daily basis, let’s focus on the topic at hand – the Love for the Poor as taught by the Catholic Church in the Catechism of the Catholic Church

God blesses those who come to the aid of the poor and rebukes those who turn away from them: “Give to him who begs from you, do not refuse him who would borrow from you”; “you received without pay, give without pay.” It is by what they have done for the poor that Jesus Christ will recognize his chosen ones. When “the poor have the good news preached to them,” it is the sign of Christ’s presence [#2443].

“The Church’s love for the poor . . . is a part of her constant tradition.” This love is inspired by the Gospel of the Beatitudes, of the poverty of Jesus, and of his concern for the poor.235 Love for the poor is even one of the motives for the duty of working so as to “be able to give to those in need.” It extends not only to material poverty but also to the many forms of cultural and religious poverty [#2444].

Love for the poor is incompatible with immoderate love of riches or their selfish use:

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have killed the righteous man; he does not resist you [#2445].

St. John Chrysostom vigorously recalls this: “Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs.” “The demands of justice must be satisfied first of all; that which is already due in justice is not to be offered as a gift of charity”:

When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice [#2446].

The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities. Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God:

He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none and he who has food must do likewise. But give for alms those things which are within; and behold, everything is clean for you. If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? [#2447]

“In its various forms – material deprivation, unjust oppression, physical and psychological illness and death – human misery is the obvious sign of the inherited condition of frailty and need for salvation in which man finds himself as a consequence of original sin. This misery elicited the compassion of Christ the Savior, who willingly took it upon himself and identified himself with the least of his brethren. Hence, those who are oppressed by poverty are the object of a preferential love on the part of the Church which, since her origin and in spite of the failings of many of her members, has not ceased to work for their relief, defense, and liberation through numerous works of charity which remain indispensable always and everywhere” [#2448].

Beginning with the Old Testament, all kinds of juridical measures (the jubilee year of forgiveness of debts, prohibition of loans at interest and the keeping of collateral, the obligation to tithe, the daily payment of the day-laborer, the right to glean vines and fields) answer the exhortation of Deuteronomy: “For the poor will never cease out of the land; therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor in the land.'”Jesus makes these words his own: “The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”In so doing he does not soften the vehemence of former oracles against “buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals…,” but invites us to recognize his own presence in the poor who are his brethren:

When her mother reproached her for caring for the poor and the sick at home, St. Rose of Lima said to her: “When we serve the poor and the sick, we serve Jesus. We must not fail to help our neighbors, because in them we serve Jesus. [#2449].

I would encourage you to share this post with your family and friends, especially when dumb things are said that are not in-line what the Catholic Church actually teaches or says to the world. Also, if you didn’t know, the Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization in the world. See all the things Catholicism does to serve the poor here.

 

5 thoughts on “Quick Lessons from the Catechism: Love For the Poor

  1. There is no common sense in America today. Not from the top nor all the way on down. Huge money is spent on education but look at the results. All good is declining everywhere you look.

    • But we have the responsibility to do something about it, Tom. Did you hear Fr. Will”s homily from Sunday? We don’t need sourpusses, we need to be people of joy.

  2. Sir:

    Your post is timely, true and well supported by quotes from the Bible and the catechism, but might I suggest two other sources that may even be more to the point you are making.

    First, “The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church”. Organized and presented very much like the catechism, but obviously, dedicated to the Church’s social teachings.

    Secondly, much of the content of the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Most especially on the USCCB site, a page entitled, “Seven Themes of Catholic Social Teaching”. To see this page, go to http://www.usccb.org then enter “seven themes” in the search argument. The page will be the first entry on the result list.

    Thank you for your continuing efforts to enrich our spiritual lives.

    • Yes, Richard, I looked at those links too last night, but at some point you have to think about who is reading these posts. In today’s age, you can’t write too much, most people won’t read it. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Tom,
    Beautifully written and very provocative. We discussed it this morning at coffee after Mass. Yes, we need to recognize what the Church has done and continues to do regardless of what the political climate is. (sometimes in spite of) It was also interesting that the comment from our president happened on the same day as the Pope’s homily pointing out what the church does for the poor.
    We are all called to do more for the poor, and we need to speak up when we hear such polarizing words from our country’s leader. He truly has no idea what he is talking about.
    Thank you for the work that you do,
    Maggie D’Agnolo

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