Thursday, September 4, 2014

Option for the Poor

Question number eight: When a  religious group expresses a political position isn't this making the religion into a special interest group?

In the eyes of the writer the opposite is the case.  The reason the Church speaks out is because in its judgement human rights,  freedom, peace, protection of our environment and similar values for the common good  have been violated.  When this  judgement is made the Church has to be on the side of the weak and the oppressed. These positions are not for the Church but for those they want to help.

This was the intention  of the prophets of the Old Testament.  The contents of the prophet's message was of two kinds; desist from idolatry and practice justice in society. These two were not seen as separate. Do not have strange Gods when you worship the one true God, this God is the God who is always on the side of the poor and oppressed was the message of the prophets and writers of the books of the Scriptures. Therefore the situation of the poor and oppressed when we are silent about their condition we are not being true to God.

Jesus put this together in his saying: "You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment, the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments the whole law is based, and the prophets as well."

When we try to help the weak and oppressed and work for their common good we are acting in the role of prophet and loving our neighbor. In this role we are serving them and at the same time criticizing  the aberrations and the structures of society that bring about this oppression.

There  are those in society who see this work for the poor and criticize it as being more for the sake of religion than for the poor and oppressed. In Joy of the Gospel # 198, Pope Francis explains: "For the Church, the option for the poor is primarily a theological category rather than a cultural, sociological, political or philosophical one. God shows the poor 'his first mercy'. This divine preference has consequences for the faith life of all Christians, since we are called to have this mind… which was in Jesus Christ' (Phil 2:5). Inspired by this, the Church has made an option for the poor which is understood as a 'special form of primacy in the exercise of Christian charity, to which the whole tradition of the Church bears witness'. This option – as Benedict XVI has taught – 'is implicit in our Christian faith in a God who became poor for us, so as to enrich us with his poverty'. This is why I want a Church which is poor and for the poor. They have much to teach us. Not only do they share in the sensus fidei, but in their difficulties they know the suffering Christ. We need to let ourselves be evangelized by them. The new evangelization is an invitation to acknowledge the saving power at work in their lives and to put them at the center of the Church’s pilgrim way. We are called to find Christ in them, to lend our voice to their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to speak for them and to embrace the mysterious wisdom which God wishes to share with us through them."