We many times hear that we should act with a “preferential option for the poor” This phrase dates to 1968 but is simply an elegant way of expressing a biblical truth. Jesus tells us in the always disconcerting chapter 25 of Matthew’s gospel ““Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” This however has roots deep in the Old Testament.
The Jewish law itself stated: “Cursed be he who violates the rights of the alien, the orphan or the widow!’ (Dt 27:19).
God himself takes the part of the poor and those who we would consider marginalized.
The LORD protects the stranger,
sustains the orphan and the widow,
but thwarts the way of the wicked. Ps 146:9
The Lord is particularly concerned that Justice be done for them by the leaders of the people: “Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow” (Is 1:17)
Let us look now at the characters and situation in today’s parable. The widow is among the poor to be protected. The judge is at very least indifferent to her predicament. He did not respect any one much less a poor woman. He also showed that he did not fear the God who has claimed the poor as his own.
Yet she will receive justice because he is afraid that she will treat him violently. If a truly bad man will listen and act properly how much more will God hear the cry of the poor? (Ps 34)
This would have had a very special meaning to the early Christians. They had declared themselves followers of Jesus and now awaited his return. They are as innocent as the widow but have found many in authority who were as wicked as the judge. Jesus had told them that they would be hauled before judges (Lk 12:11) and indeed there would be division within their own families (Luke 12:50-53) But they are finding this too long a wait and want Jesus to act now. If not an immediate return a little smiting of their enemies would certainly be appreciated.
Luke’s response to this is very subtle and profound. He compares them to widows. people to whom God has shown preferential care. They are loved and protected; they are part of God’s plan not the all of it. Luke does not compare them to Kings, or Prophets or Priests or even messengers whose power is found in their strength but in a widow, a person powerless by definition.
Look now at the ending: “I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Lk 18:8).
The disciples might very well say that if this is Jesus’ idea of speedy then He may well find very few people waiting. There is something here of course, we may be widows and orphans protected and loved by God, but we can find that love very far away and our oppressors very close indeed. Certainly, we all need to pray for patience, forbearance and hope.
Yet this is the Gospel of St Luke and there is another dimension:
37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them. (Luke 12:37)
We read this passage several weeks ago and saw that vigilance meant looking not up the in sky for the Lord’s return but at the needs and wants of those around us. (Lk 12: 42-45) That is true here as well this is how Jesus will know if there is faith.
Last week we celebrated the feast of St Pope John 23rd who called the second Vatican Council in whose spirit I was formed. One sign of this is a desire to see everything through the lens of the scriptures. I find it significant that we have begun looking at stewardship while reading St Luke’s gospel at Mass. Of all the gospels his is the most concerned with why Jesus has called us to belong to a community and the necessary spirituality for it. Next year when we will be implementing how we wish to be stewards we will read from St Matthew’s Gospel which can be read as a handbook for building a church. Scriptural Serendipity.
So, let us look at the results so far.
Last week I asked those who were present to make a renewed commitment in support of our parish. One of the realities of this community is that many of us travel a great deal and are not able to be present here at St Charles every week. Therefore, we must do everything several times to reach everyone. I ask the forbearance of those who heard this and filled out the card last week as I address those that did not.
Over the past few years our weekly offertory has consistently been one of the lowest in the Brooklyn both in amount and per capita. Over that same span of time bills and costs at the parish have steadily risen. As our next financial report, which will be published in a few weeks, will reveal we have had to use some of our rental income to pay operating expenses.
It will take a greater sacrifice to St. Charles Borromeo to maintain much less expand our ministries. As we all make our commitments today, remember that we are truly returning to God what has first been given to us. The ownership lies with Him.
Here’s how this will work: My goal is to receive a card from every family attending this Mass today. Today is very important. Tomorrow I will meet with parish leaders and our accountant to plan our strategy for a loan to complete the work on the church in a timely manner. We will need to have a much better idea what we can reasonably expect in our regular collections and if we will have to direct some of our rental money. As most of you know better than I the more we can direct to this project the better the terms we can expect and the faster this will be accomplished. So:
- If you have brought your own Commitment Card from the mailing with you today, we greatly appreciate it and we’ll collect them in a moment.
- If you didn’t bring the one that was mailed to you, or you didn’t get the mailing, the ushers are going to walk down the aisle right now and distribute Commitment Weekend forms to everyone who doesn’t have one.
- If you have already returned your Commitment Card to the parish office take one of the forms the ushers have and simply indicate that you have already returned your card.
- For those filling out the forms, please print your name and address on the bottom portion of the card.
- We ask that you please include your cell number and email address. Our parish would like to use this opportunity to update our records.
- Next, please indicate the amount you typically give to the collection at the top of the card.
- Then on the next line, please indicate the new amount you are committing to going forward.
- I would like to remind you that this is not a pledge of any form. It should serve as a promise between you and God.
- Next, please check one of the four options:
- Yes – I am interested in increasing my offertory through my parish’s online giving portal. Please send me more information.
- I encourage you to consider signing up for electronic giving through WeShare. It is a simple and convenient process for you that takes no more than a few minutes to complete. It also greatly benefits our parish by reducing mailing costs and accounting for weekly offertory fluctuation.. As I have noted we are a very mobile parish and it is important that we recognize that the parish exists during the weeks we are not here as well as when we are. This is not a pew rental for single events.
- You can have your offertory charged to your credit card (earn reward or loyalty points) or simply have it deducted from your bank’s checking or savings account. Mark the appropriate box if you are interested and make sure to write out your email address neatly. We’ll send you some information and a link to get started.
- Yes – I am interested in increasing my offertory with envelopes. If you are currently not receiving envelopes and wish to receive them, please include your telephone number.
- Praying – I am still praying about my decision
- Amen- I am unable to increase my regular giving at this time.
I thank you for your commitments and may God bless us.