According to Webster’s online dictionary, the definition of poverty is “the state of being inferior in quality or insufficient in amount.” If this is true, then every human being is in some sense “poor”, whether we consider either our sinfulness or that fact that no one is self-sufficient in this life. Each of us is in need of help from those around us, rendering us, in some sense, “poor”.
Despite this understanding of our general human poverty, it is undeniable that there are growing numbers of people who endure poverty because they are denied the basic necessities of life. These necessities include food, housing, medical care and employment that would allow them the resources to care for themselves and their families. Over the past few weeks, we have been reflecting on these many “faces of poverty” and how we, as a Church, are called to stand with the poor in our midst in concrete and effective ways. Such solidarity with the poor is never optional for a Christian, since it is a mandate given to us by Christ Himself. For as he reminded us in Matthew 25, “Amen I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
As I reflect upon this divine mandate to stand in solidarity with the poor, a healthy recognition of our common poverty can help spur us into action to alleviate the concrete sufferings of our neighbor. More specifically, we can easily fall into the illusion that we are self-sufficient and not dependent upon our neighbor or even God for our basic necessities. This is both false and harmful. Rather, at a blink of an eye, at a moment when we least expect it, our poverty can become evident with a sudden diagnosis of disease, the loss of a job or the death of a loved one. On any given day, each of us can be only one moment away from joining the “least of my brothers and sisters”. And if this happens to us today, would we not want someone to reach out to us in our hour of need? And is we would expect such help to be given to us, why would we not be ready now to give the same help to those around us?
The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly videos! Do not miss Bishop Frank’s video: What Does it Mean to Stand with Christ?