AT the start of this year 2019, we look within and around ourselves to find new opportunities to live our personal mission within our communal mission as Church. One particular invitation that we recognize is our being a Church for the poor.
Among the many ‘poverties’ that our people endure is material poverty. This is a fact and is sometimes, though not necessarily, the root of other poverties. For example, children coming from materially poor families may also be academically challenged due to their lack of nutrition. Oftentimes, they even suffer academic deprivation. Materially poor adolescents may also experience social and emotional poverty among their peers. These are just some examples of how material poverty may cause other ‘poverties’.
Material poverty among our people disturbs me. Although Jesus told His disciples that the poor will always be with them, the Gospels record many of His gestures which were meant to alleviate the sufferings of the poor. He even invited the man who wanted to gain eternal life to sell all that he had and to give the money to the poor.
As I reflect on what I can do for the poor at this time in my life, considering the responsibilities and powers that God has entrusted to me, I cannot help but think of the reasons why such kind of poverty continue to exist. Pondering on these reasons may direct me to possible ways of truly helping.
1. Corruption. The heaviest and saddest reason why many people are materially poor is the dishonesty and greed of those who are supposed to be entrusted with the distribution of the goods of the earth to its citizens. As somebody puts it, “The earth has enough for everyone’s needs but not enough for anyone’s greed.” Corruption, whether violent or subtle, is stealing away the wealth of individuals as well as of communities.
2. Geography. Some people cannot get out of material poverty because of their geographical conditions such as unproductive terrains or very remote locations. Although we may see that they are contented where they are, but we cannot deny the sufferings they endure for being so deprived of even the basic needs at times.
3. Cultural. Another reason for material poverty is the culture that either seeks to remain in poverty or creates poverty. Mendicancy that is practiced by certain tribes/groups of people makes them stay dependent on the charities of other people. They do not seek to get out of their situation. Their children are not sent to school but are taught to beg and thus remain perpetually dependent. The culture of gambling, having vices and other bad habits which affect families and have effects that are passed on from generation to generation is also a real reason for material poverty.
4. Natural and Manmade calamities. The loss of lives and properties due to calamities is without doubt causing the victims to experience material poverty. This is self-explanatory. These are just some possible reasons why the poor are always with us. Knowing these may direct us to possible ways of truly helping. The Lord calls us to be poor of heart but never to cause or condone destitution among our people. He Himself took on a preferential option for the poor. He never despised them, instead, He reached out to help them even when His accusers were watching. Since, we are His followers, we must do the same. The Lord Jesus is our Head, we are His Body. We are a Church for the poor!