Central Idea: The just try to see that everyone receives the good that is due to them. Doctrine: The preferential option for the poor. Practical Application: The corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
For Lectionary 138, click here.
Central Idea: The just try to see that everyone receives the good that is due to them.
Reading 1 Am 6:1a, 4-7
- Assyria is about to destroy Israel. Yet the powerful among the Chosen People engage in wanton luxurious revelry. So they will be the first to go.
Responsorial Psalm Ps 146:7, 8-9, 9-10
- Justice is the possession of a good due to one. How does God secure justice for the oppressed? In other words, how does God give to those who are deprived the good due to them? How do the hungry receive food, hostages get freedom, the blind gain their sight, the heavily burdened get relief, strangers receive protection, the orphan and widow obtain sustenance?
- He does it through just human beings. The just are those who do these things. This is why God loves them. They are like God who keeps faith forever.
- Jesus Christ, God-made-man, did these things par excellence and he has taught the members of his Church to do the same—and they have.
- God will also give the ultimate reward or punishment to us for the good or evil we have done or suffered.
Reading 2 1 Tm 6:11-16
- St. Paul tells Timothy (and so us) the same thing in four different ways: pursue virtue; compete well for the faith; lay hold of eternal life; keep the commandment. This is the same as Christ saying, “Strive to enter by the narrow door” (Lk 13:24).
- Our salvation and sanctification in Christ are gifts, yet we receive or reject them by our actions. These actions are moral in nature: either obeying the moral law or rejecting it. The wicked are human beings who do evil, rejecting the moral law by their actions. The just are human beings who make the effort to do what is right.
Gospel Lk 16:19-31
- In the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, the problem with the rich man was not his wealth. The parable does not say he became rich dishonestly (although he may have). His problem was that he didn’t “listen to,” that is, obey, Moses and the prophets. He did not repent of his sins, obey the law, and love God above all and his neighbor as himself. One example of this is the way he ignored his fellow Jew and therefore his neighbor, Lazarus, who sat at his door begging.
- The rich man received good things during his life. He lived like the rich diners that Amos decries. He did nothing for those in need around him. In the parable, God rewards him with torment.
- Lazarus received during his life what was bad—poverty and illness—like the unfortunates the Psalm says God helps. God rewards Lazarus with comfort in the “bosom of Abraham” for his endurance of suffering on earth.
- Through this parable, Our Lord is saying that his message continues the message of Moses and the prophets. If we won’t love God and neighbor, we won’t listen to Christ, even if he does something stupendous, like rise from the dead.
Doctrine: The preferential option for the poor
- The preferential option for the poor is the special love that Christians—in imitation of Christ—show to those in any need.
- Christ showed a special love for people who were poor, oppressed, and outcast in any way.
- In Luke 4:18, Christ quoted Isaiah in saying he had come specifically to “preach good news to the poor . . . release to captives . . . recovering of sight to the blind . . . [and] liberty to those who are oppressed.”
- This does not mean that Christ condemns wealth. How could he? Christ as God possesses every good. Even during his public ministry, he had wealthy and generous friends that he loved. Rather, he condemns the hoarding of wealth and neglect of the poor.
- The actual phrase “preferential option for the poor” was coined when in 1968, the superior general of the Jesuits, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, spoke of the “option for the poor,” and the bishops of Latin America further developed the idea as a “preferential option for the poor.”
- According to CCC 2448, anyone experiencing human misery—for example, those suffering material deprivation, unjust oppression, physical and psychological illness, and death—are the poor.
- Christ’s response to human misery was compassion, including taking on that condition himself (CCC 2448).
- The Church has a preferential love for the poor because the Church imitates her founder’s compassion toward the poor by working “for their relief, defense, and liberation through numerous works of charity.” (CCC 2448)
Practical Application: The corporal and spiritual works of mercy
- The misery that human beings experience can pertain to either the body or the soul. This is the reason for the traditional enumeration of two kinds of works of mercy, corporal and spiritual. These are acts of charity through which we can help everyone receive goods due to them by nature of their human dignity.
- The corporal works of mercy are:
- To feed the hungry;
- To give drink to the thirsty;
- To clothe the naked;
- To harbor the harborless (this can mean to give someone asylum and to shelter the homeless);
- To visit the sick;
- To ransom the captive (this can mean to free slaves and to visit those in prison and persons homebound);
- To bury the dead.
- The spiritual works of mercy are:
- To instruct the ignorant;
- To counsel the doubtful;
- To admonish sinners;
- To bear wrongs patiently;
- To forgive offences willingly;
- To comfort the afflicted;
- To pray for the living and the dead.
- Among the spiritual works of mercy perhaps the most critical today is the first, to instruct the ignorant. Perhaps the most difficult, because we are most afraid of it, is to admonish, that is correct, sinners.
- A key consideration for each of us is our own attitude toward all the material and spiritual goods we hold in our hands, whether our hands will be open or closed when it comes to others.