A Plea for the Poor.
(This is a letter by the pastor to the members of our parish. We are three small rural places of worship in one pastoral unit. Our county has suffered economic decline due to the closure of the forest to logging, which had been the mainstay of the local economy for a hundred years. Poverty and hunger have increased and we are responding with a small food bank, financed by donations.)

I am writing you to ask for your support for our parish food bank, the Pastor's Pantry. This project has my full support and that of the parish pastoral council. It is an opportunity for each of us not only to help the needy in our local community, but also to help ourselves. Our Lord has spoken many times about helping the poor and he has indicated that our help of the poor is kindness given directly to Him.

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food…"Matt. 25:31-35.

The good will ask when did they see him and give him food? "And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'" Matt. 25:40.

However, to those who do not care for the poor he will say: "Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food,.." Matt. 25:41-42. The apostle James takes up this message and tries to convince Christians to act.

 

"For the judgment is merciless to one who has not shown mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well," but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead." James 2:13-17.

 

There are three ways that someone can care for the poor. People can do all three, but often that is not possible. However, we can all do something.

1. Provide direct support for the Pantry's efforts by donating food or money to buy food.

2. Volunteer to help distribute the food. Two people are needed for each three-hour shift. Also, people can help by picking up and transporting food.

3. Finally, everyone can provide prayer support. You can pray for the general success of our efforts, ask the Lord for volunteers to work at the Pantry, ask the Lord for money and food to give to the needy, ask for guidance, adequate facilities, and for God's help for those actively involved in our efforts. Your can pray in any way that works best for you, such as say the Rosary, spend time in meditation, spend time in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. During Lent, we will have the Blessed Sacrament exposed for adoration after mass during the week for about 20 minutes at Sacred Heart Church. This is already available at St. Yves on Tuesday.

Those who volunteer to help distribute food have an advantage. Mother Teresa of Calcutta taught her sisters that when they helped the poor they helped Christ who is present in the poor. She had her followers pray in the presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist several hours each day, and then to be in Christ's presence in the "least of his brethren". Fr. Sebastian Vazhakala M.C. who confounded the Missionaries of Charity with Mother Teresa, after quoting Matt. 25 in a Vatican Radio interview, said:

"Therefore whenever we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, take care of the sick, visit the prisoners, we do it to Jesus. The Jesus whom we contemplate, love and adore in the Bread of Life, with respect, faith and devotion is the same Jesus whom we are called to meet, love and serve with the selfsame respect, faith and devotion, in the distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor." (Emphasis added.)

If we wish to find Christ, and to serve him, we do not have to cross the ocean, or live in a cave, or be a monk. We only have to love and help him in the "least of his brethren".

Finally, the poor in our area may not be religious but they are usually Christian. All Christians know the Lord's prayer, and if they have used that prayer asking God's assistance then they have said to him, "give us this day our daily bread". We are God's answer to that prayer when they come to our Pantry. We are his hands giving them their daily bread. So, I ask each member of our parish community to take part in this ministry, this service to our God in whatever way you can.

 

Sincerely,

The Pastor


People sometimes object to helping the poor indiscriminately, without checking to see if they are really in need. These objectors feel that aid only enables people with chronic problems to continue inappropriate behavior. In support of this argument one could quote 2 Thessalonians 3:10 NIV, NAB "For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat." These ideas are not new, but it burdens the giver and may dissuade him from being generous. Instead we can leave the burden with the receiver of alms. Listen to the Shepherd of Hermas, writing in the very early church.

"Practise goodness; and from the rewards of your labours, which God gives you, give to all the needy in simplicity, not hesitating as to whom you are to give or not to give. Give to all, for God wishes His gifts to be shared amongst all. They who receive, will render an account to God why and for what they have received. For the afflicted who receive will not be condemned, but they who receive on false pretences will suffer punishment. He, then, who gives is guiltless. For as he received from the Lord, so has he accomplished his service in simplicity, not hesitating as to whom he should give and to whom he should not give. This service, then, if accomplished in simplicity, is glorious with God." Book III, Similitude 10.
 

Another very ancient document, which was written around the time of the gospels, makes a similar point.

"1:5 Give to every one that asks of you, and ask not again; for the Father wishes that from his own gifts there should be given to all. Blessed is he who gives according to the commandment, for he is free from guilt; but woe unto him that receive. For if a man receive being in need, he shall be free from guilt; but he who receives when not in need, shall pay a penalty as to why he received and for what purpose; and when he is in tribulation he shall be examined concerning the things that he has done, and shall not depart thence [ from that place] until he has paid the last [penny].
 
1:6 For [truly] it has been said on these matters, let your almsgiving abide in your hands until you know to whom you have given." Didache.
 
Even this last sentence (1:6) does not say don't give. Perhaps the author is merely suggesting caution and prudence.

 

See Almsgiving in the Catechism of the Council of Trent.

 


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See also Scripture on Almsgiving and a theological explanation of the duty to help the poor.

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