Poverty of the Not-So-Obvious Poor

file0001606570188Christmas shopping and the Red Kettles bell ringers of the Salvation Army are calling us with a tinny jangle to help the poor. I nod my head and smile, walking by, not depositing even a penny. I have already given—to another group, at church or the office—earlier. I am annoyed by the once-a-year, in-your-face, give-to-ME-or-look-selfish-in-the-eyes-of-the-anonymous-crowd supplicants. The annoyance exists for more than whom they claim needs our help.

All year the obvious poor are easy to spot—financially destitute, mentally impaired, in need of food, shelter, clothing, or medical care. There are the poor souls in purgatory hungering for God with no one but us to ease their suffering. It is easing the discomfort of the poor that we are called to do as Christians, in whatever way appropriate to the station of our life.

Then there is a whole other level of poor that begs for Christ. It is often composed of those who live above physical poverty with few unmet earthly needs. They are the antithesis of the poor in spirit mentioned in the Beatitudes (Mt 5:3). Their spirits are often deeply attached to this world and find security in it, not realizing their need for God’s grace. The affluent that help build six-billion dollar sports arenas and place but $100 in a monthly offertory—if they attend church at all.

There are the poor in spirit who often lack understanding the teachings of Jesus and urgings of the Holy Spirit; the emotionally unstable but not fully deranged, the broken that are bullies, predacious sexual offenders.

These other levels of the poor are the ones who demand the greatest of us—of me—as Christians. To see opulence at its worst, bullies at their best, to hear sexual innuendos feigned as innocent of intent—blamed to my depravity—pushes me to my limit of being kind, compassionate, and loving. I just want to throttle them! It is in the effort to understand that they possess brokenness—a mental and spiritual instability nearly hidden in the normalcy of a broken society—which reins in my anger.

It is often easier for me to be compassionate towards the poorest needing a bath, a toothbrush, and clean clothes than it is to tolerate the presence of a person of entitlement, and delusional about their even being so!

Compassion is never meant to be at arms length. How desperately I fail at this when confronted by the fear-filled arrogant. I pity them, and another failing, this! For if I pity someone, I have adopted a stance of being superior to them, to be sorry that they are not like me—egad, but the charitable slope is slippery.

The poor, we are told will always be with us, for without them who would there be to call forth Christ?

I need to go read the Psalms and learn a deeper way to pray for the pompous few. And, while at it, ask the Lord to judge me less harshly for my sins of self-importance.

Litany of Humility

Written by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930), Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X.

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I,

Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I,

Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That, in the opinion of the world, others may, increase

and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be chosen and I set aside,

Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be praised and I unnoticed,

Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be preferred to me in everything,

Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may become holier than I,

provided that I may become as holy as I should,

Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

 

Image courtesy morguefile.com.

 

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