As I recently read through the decrees from the 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), I came across a phrase that always rises up to challenge me: “a preferential option for the poor.”
“There it is again,” I said, a little disappointed that the Jesuits had not moved on to something a little more in my comfort zone.
Some of the other hot topics may come and go, such as electing new generals and dealing with internal squabbles (see http://www.companysj.com/GC35/), but since 1968, when Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., penned his letter to the Jesuits of Latin America, the phrase has gained a prominent place time after time in important documents both within the Jesuit Order but also in other Church teachings.
I think the phrase keeps getting repeated because we still don’t get it.
Now I’m not a Jesuit, but I do know several (most) Jesuits who do get it. So this is not about them. This is about us. You and me.
The documents of the general congregations, though they may be written to give vision and direction to the Jesuits around the world, are also meant to inspire those who work with and among the Jesuits.
That means me.
Since you are reading today’s Daily Reflection, which I assume you do often, then your prayers and intentions and good deeds are also an extension of this apostolate of the Daily Reflection ministry.
So that means the documents of the general congregations may offer some vision and direction to you as well.
Now back to the preferential option for the poor: Do you get it?
Jesus has commanded all Christians – everyone who professes to worship in His name – to have a special love and concern for the poor.
How do we know this? Let’s look at today’s Gospel reading: “. . . this poor widow put in more than all the rest.” Clearly, Jesus lauds the efforts of the poor to embrace their poverty and still extend a hand to help others, as this poor widow did. The Gospel is brimming with accounts of Jesus holding up the poor in spirit AND materially poor as a model for what He calls us to be. We are called to be like the widow.
If you are like me, you probably worry that embracing your own poverty – accepting it – basking in it, even, will make you less able to be responsive to the needs of others (financially and physically). The young men in the first reading (maybe the first young people in history to choose vegetarianism as a lifestyle) chose to live simply and courageously as inspired by the Law, and were certainly none the worse for it. God took care of them.
Oh, NOW I get it . . . I think . . . I hope . . . I pray.
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