God is a God of justice and mercy. Throughout the Scriptures, we hear how God “hears the cry of the oppressed” and “is not deaf to the orphan [and widow].” God has mercy on the lowly. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to reflect God’s care and concern for the poor and vulnerable in our world.
One of the seven themes of Catholic Social Teaching is the Option for the Poor and Vulnerable. A basic moral test of society is the care of the vulnerable. “The richer classes have many ways of shielding themselves, and stand less in need of help from the State; whereas the mass of the poor have no resources of their own to fall back upon, and must chiefly depend upon the assistance of the State,” with “State” referring to both global governments and the Church. (Rerum Novarum, #37)
There are different ways in which individuals may show care for the poor and vulnerable. We each need to discern how God is calling us to serve the least ones in our society. Some of us are called to advocacy, to work to influence public policy. Some are called to direct service, meeting the basic needs of the poor. Other are called to raise awareness about the issues the poor face in our society. We are all called to pray for the poor, the leaders of government and the Church, and for one another so that the needs of the poor are at the forefront of our minds and that we may follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit in caring for the vulnerable. We are also called to continually examine our own ways of living and the motivations of our actions.
Whether we realize it or not, how we live has an impact on the poor and vulnerable in the world. We need to be mindful of what we are purchasing and where it came from. Where was it made? Who made it? How did it get to the store where I’m buying it? We need to consider how our purchase and use of goods promotes the care of the poor or not.
I have friends who have gone on mission trips to third world countries. They come home with stories of desolate poverty, but also of hope and faith. Amazingly, it seems that the poorest in our world are the most open to God’s presence and will in their lives. The poor humbly pray for their daily bread, literally, and give thanks and praise to God for allowing them to eat whenever they are able. They truly rely on God to meet their needs. The poor often put the needs of others, especially children and the sick, before their own needs. They are examples of generous, self-less living. They are examples of Jesus in the world.