A woman, who with her husband and two children, coming out of poverty once said, “Poor people don’t plan long-term. We’ll just get our hearts broken.” I was able to experience firsthand extreme poverty both in the Dominican Republic and volunteering at the Milwaukee Guest House, serving the homeless. Those whom I met have taught me a great deal about myself and my life style. They have taught me to realize my own poverty and how to have a dependence upon God. Oftentimes what we have obscures our own poverty, which for many of us is an internal one. Oftentimes we hide it behind our possessions, or power, or addictions, but in doing so we miss the call to repent.
The rich man in the Gospel of Luke pleaded with Abraham to send Lazarus to his brothers so they would not end up in the place of torment. The rich man in his own lifetime ignored the call to repentance, both coming from Sacred Scripture, and also in Lazarus who was lying at his door. Lazarus was a nobody to the rich man and for all practical purposes was dead to him. All that the rich man had to do in order to also rest in the bosom of Abraham was to take care of poor Lazarus. Was the rich man afraid that in opening his door to Lazarus there would be others who would follow? Or was the rich man simply blinded by his wealth? Or did his own complacency numb to the world around him? What he lived is what he believed.
The Word of God today is calling us to be what the rich man wasn’t—the face of compassion. The marginalized of our society, like the Scriptures, are calling us to a conversion. The Bible and the poor teach us a powerful message that when we care for the them we are caring for ourselves—namely our acceptance of God’s gift of salvation. God through His Word and through His poor is always calling us to embrace our own poverty because this is the door to dependence upon Him. How we live is how we believe.
The Prophet Amos warns us of our own complacency and the psalmist reminds us of God’s continuous actions among his marginalized. Paul’s admonition to live a life of righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness is never devoid of our relationship with the least of our sisters and brothers. In the end we are called by God to move beyond “ours” and embrace God’s “mine,” mine are the hungry and the captives, mine are the blind and the lowly, and mine are the fatherless and the widow. When we move into what is God’s, we come home to ourselves and to all our sisters and brothers.
Yours in Christ,