St. Basil the Great, Father of the Church, defender of the faith, was also an outspoken defender of the poor.
He was a bishop of compassion and solidarity with the poor. In a time of famine he opened a soup kitchen and served meals to the hungry. He founded a hospital for the sick poor.
But he was deeply disturbed by the inequality he saw around him and called for redistribution of wealth and of the goods of the earth.
“What is a miser? One who is not content with what is needful. What is a thief? One who takes what belongs to others. Why do you not consider yourself a miser and a thief when you claim as your own what you received in trust? If one who takes the clothing off another is called a thief, why give any other name to one who can clothe the naked and refuses to do so?
“The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry. The garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of the one who is naked. The shoes that you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot. The money you keep locked away is the money of the poor. The acts of charity you do not perform are so many injustices you commit.”
Pope Francis has often reflected the challenge of Saint Basil as when he wrote in Evangelli Gaudium; The Joy of the Gospel, ¶ 202:
As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems. Inequality is the root of social ills.
How will we live out this challenge this year in our personal lives and in the life of our nations?