Do not forget the poor, O Lord! (Responsorial Psalm)
Micah, the Prophet, had had enough! In our first reading for today, he expresses his anger towards the oppressor and the powerful, the ones who lord it over the poor and the powerless. He goes on to describe their wrong doing: cheating people out of their lands, stealing a family’s inheritance, taking a poor man’s house and leaving people without hope for a humane existence.
There is much that we can identify with in this first reading. Who of us have not had family or friends or neighbors who have lost their jobs, had a bank foreclose on a home, and suddenly found themselves and their families with much less than they had just a few years prior. Like Micah, we recognize that these human conditions are the result of human greed and not from some cycle of an economic theory. This is one of the teachings that the Church has been promoting over the years. Most recently, over the last hundred years, the Papal Encyclicals on Social and Economic Justice have cast a Gospel light on these issues.
The Gospel for today also gives us an example of how Jesus confronted this reality. Jesus’ mission was described for us in the Gospel according to Luke, 4:18 -19: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord." Jesus was moved with pity by the poor and oppressed and the Gospel readings we have this week gives us a picture of a Jesus who is caring and compassionate.
On the other hand, we also have a growing opposition to Jesus by the religious leaders of his day. In today’s reading, they are beginning the plot to put him to death. The way that Jesus deals with this threat to his life is truly remarkable. He continues doing what he was doing, teaching and curing the sick. He became more cautious but he didn’t stop doing what he was commissioned to do. He understood what St. Paul later describes as the power of powerlessness. St. Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians says, "for when I am powerless, it is then that I am strong." (2 Cor. 12:10)
It is not difficult for us to identify with the Jesus we have in today’s Gospel and feel the powerlessness of being a voice of justice and goodness in the midst of so much opposition. When we experience that powerlessness, we are like St. Paul, recognizing that this is truly God’s work and God will not forget the poor and the oppressed. In our human way of thinking, we may believe that all the people who are bringing death and destruction to God’s creation and children are getting away with it. They are not. Our role is to stay the course, stay firm in our faith in a God who creates and loves, who send us His Son that saves and redeems, and a Spirit that sanctifies every moment of our life. We believe that faith is truly stronger than evil, and that love is greater than hate and justice is more powerful than wickedness. This kind of faith motivated Micah. It can motivate and inspire us also. We believe that God never forgets the poor.
Fr. Clemente Barrón, C.P. is a member of Immaculate Conception Community in Chicago, Illinois.