I believe it is not enough to give to the poor, to share our goods with the poor. I believe it is essential for a follower of Christ to know the poor as persons.
It is all too easy to “love” from afar – and I have been guilty of this. But when we really look at what Jesus did and what he calls us to do, we are reminded of the need to break down barriers and to share with each other.
And so I am moved by today’s first reading from St. Paul to the Romans (12: 5-16). In fact I think the whole chapter 12 might be a good guide for a personal or community examination of conscience.
These words of verse 16 especially touch me
Do not be haughty but associate with the lowly.
or, as the Jerusalem Bible puts it:
never be condescending
but make real friends with the poor.
That is not easy but it can bring great joy.
Last night I finished reading The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day, edited by Robert Ellsberg. Dorothy struggled with the hospitality that the Catholic Worker offered and, though she found many things to delight in, it is quite clear that she often had a hard time dealing with some of the Catholic Worker guests and staff members.
Yet in a column in The Catholic Worker July-August 1948 issue she wrote:
Well, now at fifty, I cannot say that I have been disillusioned. But I cannot say either that I yet share the poverty and the suffering of the poor No matter how much I may live in a slum, I can never be poor as the mother of three, six, ten children is poor (or rich either). I can never give up enough. I have always to struggle against self. I am not disillusioned with myself either. I know my talents and abilities as well as failures. But I have done woefully little. I am fifty, and more than half of my adult life is past. Who knows hoe much time is left after fifty? Newman says the tragedy is never to have begun.
If Dorothy Day can lament that she has not shared the poverty of the poor, can we not take small steps to “associate with the lowly,” to “ make real friends with the poor.”
“The tragedy is never to have begun.”