If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life." (Evangelii Gaudium, 49)
Pope Francis' words certainly shake us out of our comfort zone. Is it wrong that we, personally, are complacent and comfortable?
"He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed." Is 53:3-5
Can the Church truly be effective unless she imitates Christ? Clearly the answer is no. Christ was "despised and rejected by men", rejected and humiliated by the people. Crucified between two criminals, his death seemed one of derision and despair. Although it earned him scorn from the religious leaders of the time, Christ spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven to the sinners: among them tax collectors, demoniacs, andadulterers.
The Gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Lent deals with the man who is blind from birth. The Pharisees tell him, "You were born totally in sin," and throw him out of the temple. Jesus heals this marginalized man, who asks Jesus, "Who is [the Son of Man], sir, that I may believe in him?.. I do believe, Lord."
Pope Francis shares in Christ's special love for the poor and marginalized. He continues,
"Since this Exhortation is addressed to members of the Catholic Church, I want to say, with regret, that the worst discrimination which the poor suffer is the lack of spiritual care. The great majority of the poor have a special openness to the faith; they need God and we must not fail to offer them his friendship, his blessing, his word, the celebration of the sacraments and a journey of growth and maturity in the faith. Our preferential option for the poor must mainly translate into a privileged and preferential religious care." EG, 200
"Of course, all of us are called to mature in our work as evangelizers. We want to have better training, a deepening love and a clearer witness to the Gospel. In this sense, we ought to let others be constantly evangelizing us. But this does not mean that we should postpone the evangelizing mission; rather, each of us should find ways to communicate Jesus wherever we are. All of us are called to offer others an explicit witness to the saving love of the Lord, who despite our imperfections offers us his closeness, his word and his strength, and gives meaning to our lives." EG, 121
What does this mean for us Catholics today? We must not only imitate Christ's love for the poor, but remember that Christ is present in the poor and undesirable of society. "And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.'" (Mt. 25:40)
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Sr. Jeanette Marie, Vocations Director