Preferential Option for the Poor
A group of us were discussing this Sunday’s gospel where Jesus told the story of Dives and Lazarus. Someone in the group said that it is the responsibility of rich people in this world like Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, to give more of their money to the poor and the needy. It is easy for us to think that these words spoken by Jesus to the Pharisees apply to people rich people like Bill Gates. He is about the third richest person in the world and owns about $107 billion. In fact his foundation gives much money to charity.
But this story of Jesus is not just addressed to the Pharisees but it is addressed to each one of us today? Am I the rich man who feasts magnificently everyday or am I the poor man who who fills himself from the scraps that fall from the rich mans table? If we look at our lifestyle today there’s is no doubt that we in the West are comfortable and we are well aware that there are many many of our brothers and sisters who are in the greatest need.
One of the major developments in Catholic social teaching in the 20th century has been the “ preferential option for the poor.” The option for the poor is simply the idea that, as reflected in canon law, “The Christian faithful are also obliged to promote social justice and, mindful of the precept of the Lord, to assist the poor.” It indicates an obligation, on our part who call ourselves Christian, first and foremost to care for the poor and vulnerable. The preferential option is part of the social teaching of the Church. Because God created all that is good, all men have a share in the earth’s bounty. This “principle of the universal destination of goods,” says the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, “requires that the poor, the marginalized and in all cases those whose living conditions interfere with their proper growth should be the focus of particular concern.”
The preferential option for the poor is a “special form of primacy in the exercise of Christian charity,” says Pope John Paul II in his 1987 encyclical Solicitudo Rei Socialis. “It affects the life of each Christian inasmuch as he or she seeks to imitate the life of Christ, but it applies equally to our social responsibilities and hence to our manner of living, and to the logical decisions to be made concerning the ownership and use of goods.” The doctrine has its roots in Christ’s life and teaching itself. “Christ the Savior showed compassion…, identifying himself with the ‘least’ among men. ‘It is by what they have done for the poor that Jesus Christ will recognize his chosen ones,’” the Compendium says, quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2443).
The Question I need to ask myself today is “Is the poor my priority?” “Are we a church for the poor?” “Are we a parish that makes the poor a priority?” Who is a sitting on the doorstep of my life that I am ignoring?
This week let us show preferential option for the poor by doing something on Harvest Fast Day this Friday 4th October and by coming to meet Fr Freddie on Friday evening after 7:30pm Mass which he will be celebrating.