Thursday, April 23, 2015

Preferential Option for the Poor

In April our Korean Bishops made their regular visit to the Vatican; and as  was reported in the press the first thing the pope asked the bishops: "How was the Sewol problem being decided?" The pope on the other side of the world was showing solidarity with those who were hurting.

While here in Korea he showed concern for the families of the victims and  accepted a yellow ribbon which he wore while in Korea. On his way back to Rome on the plane at the press conference he was asked a question about his position on the Sewol ferry tragedy.

 "I put this on (the yellow ribbon given him by the relatives of the victims). After half a day of wearing it, I took it on for solidarity with them. Someone came up and said, it's better to take it off. You must be neutral.  But, listen with human sorrow you can't be neutral. It's what I feel." 

These words and the attitude of Pope Francis shows us what  the Christian essence of love should be. We need to show mercy and solidarity to those who are the sickest, and poorest in society. In our social teaching we express this with a preferential option for the poor.

You can't be neutral in the presence of human suffering. Before the poor become a concern of politics, economics and  culture, the issue is theological and religious. God was on the side of those hurting in Egypt and Jesus: "I was hungry and you fed me" (Mt. 25:35); Jesus identifies himself with the poor.  

"The poor person, when loved, 'is esteemed as of great value', and this is what makes the authentic option for the poor differ from any other ideology, from any attempt to exploit the poor for one’s own personal or political interest. Only on the basis of this real and sincere closeness can we properly accompany the poor on their path of liberation. Only this will ensure that 'in every Christian community the poor feel at home. Would not this approach be the greatest and most effective presentation of the good news of the kingdom?' Without the preferential option for the poor, 'the proclamation of the Gospel, which is itself the prime form of charity, risks being misunderstood or submerged by the ocean of words which daily engulfs us in today’s society of mass communication" (Joy of the Gospel #199).  

There are many in society who select those hurting,  and being with them inspire us with their service for the poor.However, it is also true that many do not understand and worry about the results. We have a person who told the pope won't it be better to remove the ribbon since you are to be neutral. It was then  he answered: we can't be neutral in the face of suffering. Work with the poor and the suffering always goes beyond politics.

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