bible blog 253

This blog follows the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church

MEMORIAL OF ST. VINCENT DE PAUL

Luke 9: 46-50

An argument arose among the disciples
about which of them was the greatest.
Jesus realized the intention of their hearts and took a child
and placed it by his side and said to them,
“Whoever receives this child in my name receives me,
and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.
For the one who is least among all of you
is the one who is the greatest.”

Then John said in reply,
“Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name
and we tried to prevent him
because he does not follow in our company.”
Jesus said to him,
“Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”

Of course in my almost 70 years I’ve seen and heard he name Vincent de Paul associated with Catholic concern for the poor, but I’ve never bothered until now reading the life of Vincent. Early in the 17th century he was captured by pirates and made a slave, only to convert his master, and escape with him back to his native France. This experience seems to have marked his character and priesthood, for although he could have had an easy life as chaplain to one of the great families of France, he chose to pioneer missions to the peasantry, and to provide permanent forms of care and support for the poorest of them. Later in life he also turned his attention to galley slaves, who were, in the main, convicted criminals and had no rights. He remained a man of real humility although he was consulted by royalty and leading politicians such as Richelieu. The Society which bears his name carries on his work today.

Jesus’ acted parable (one wonders what the child thought) spells out the link between the least and the greatest. Through Jesus who identifies with the least important, (a real identification on his cross not a sentimental commitment) God hides his majesty in them, and wills to be loved in them. There is no route to the highest that by-passes the lowest; no route to power that by-passes the powerless. This truth inspires not only humility but also passionate solidarity with the poor.

A time of economic stringency in the UK has led predictably to an increase in journalistic abuse of the poor, categorising them as lazy, shiftless and the authors of their own misery. To be abused by the most corrupt and corrupting class of persons, namely employees of our popular press, has become a badge of honour, but one which vulnerable people should not be made to wear. The abuse comforts the consciences of the second most corrupt class of people, namely the rich of our land, who want to think that the harm they are doing the poor is justified. In their heart’s intentions such people want to be the greatest and most important. The church of Jesus ought to be reminding them, forcefully, of Jesus’ teaching, while putting it into practice itself.

2 comments

  1. What does it mean to remind the rich “forcefully” of Jesus’ teaching?

    1. I suppose I should have said “gently”, at least as regards attitude. But I meant something better than vague generalities. Yesterday, in my sermon I talked about the poor people I know, here in this city, and about how they survive on £70 a week. I said I could not do what they do. I said that in Jesus’ parable of rich man and poor man, the great gulf between heaven and hell is a mirror of the great gulf between the two men in life. I think the effect of this was “forceful”

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