Bp. Mark J. Seitz SVDP Feast Homily
September 29, 2013 St. Joseph Parish, EP
Readings:, Matt. 5: 1-12
“The net result of my experience on the matter is the judgment I have formed, that true religion – true religion, Gentlemen, true religion is to be found amongst the poor.”
These are the words of our Patron, St Vincent de Paul. I would like to make them my own. Christianity is a religion of the poor! They are the ones who get it. They are the ones who have the best chance of living it. They are the ones in whom Jesus tells us we will see his face. “When you do it unto one of these, the least of my brothers, you do it unto me.” (Matt. 25) They are the ones who are blest in God’s Kingdom. We just heard the words of Jesus, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
And there is no room for any pharisaical maneuvering with the interpretation, “Well Jesus says ‘poor in spirit’.” There are indeed many kinds of poverty and the poor we are called to serve have often experienced them all.
“True religion is to be found among the poor!” It is to be found in those who do not know where their next meal is coming from. It is to be found in those whose home has been foreclosed upon and who have no place to live. It is to be found among those who are out of work and have no health insurance. It is to be found among the elderly who have no one to care for them and the children whose parents are addicted to drugs. It is to be found among immigrants who have entered the country without documents, who are now rounded up to be deported. You know one of the best places I have found true religion? In jail! (I was visiting.) The hunger for God there is palpable and sincere. They know they need Him.
These are people, many who consider themselves “good” Christians, would often avoid. We would sometimes rather secure our place in the Kingdom (and, coincidentally, in the minds of others) by showing up at Church on Sunday, by attending the Catholic Charities Gala and by giving annually to the United Way. This is all very nice, but I am not sure it is all Jesus had in mind when he invited us to be numbered among the blest.
Christianity is a religion of the poor because the poor—those who are lacking in the basic necessities of life—those who are alienated and alone—they know that this world is not heaven; that they cannot live without others and without God’s help. Not every poor person knows this, but unless you are poor or have true compassion which unites you in solidarity with the poor you will not know that you need a Savior.
That is why St. Vincent De Paul could say, “Let us,..cherish the poor as our masters, since Our Lord is in them, and they are in Our Lord.” They are our instructors, our teachers. When we serve them it is not in the first instance for their benefit, but for ours.
They announce Good News to us and we to them… What a marvelous exchange! Come to think of it, this is another way in which we can be counted among the blest. As Scripture says, “How blest are the feet of those who bring good news!”