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.
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
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
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.
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
- "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