REFLECTION: When mainstream is actually peripheral PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 21 February 2015 11:59




Pope Francis’ visit here in our country left us with a clear message that we have to care for the poor and those who are considered to be in the peripheries of society, whose hold on human life and the very basic of human dignity is considered at best as tenuous, or weak and unstable.

This message should be taken seriously and should elicit in us a sincere desire and all-out effort to help in any way we can. We need to get out of our comfort zone and be ready to get wet and dirty in this urgent business of helping the poor, the sick, the ignorant and illiterate, those with disabilities, the prisoners, beggars, etc.

In our country, in spite of the many advances we already have made to address this issue, we can still find many of our people suffering from all kinds of inhuman privation and indigence, lending credence to what Christ once said, “You will always have the poor with you.” (Mt 26,11)

The papal message is yet another strong reminder of that classic call for a “preferential love for the poor” that should not be too romanticized and idealized that it becomes divisive instead of unitive, giving rise to unnecessary distinctions and conflicts among ourselves.

We have to keep it from playing the subtle games of some ideologies that in the end are not very human and, much less, Christian. In a sense, all of us are poor because irrespective of our social and economic status, we are all in need of God. This is the poverty common to all of us.

This kind of poverty, which I consider to be the ultimate form of poverty, may even be more severe among the so-called educated and the rich people. It’s a poverty that refuses to consider itself to be so, and that is the worst cut.

In some instances, the poor may even give more than the rich, not in terms of money, but more of the heart. The rich may be poor in terms of cultural, moral and religious poverty.

Just recently, a priest-friend of mine who is doing some renovation work for his church was moved to receive a small piggy bank from a poor woman with a note that she was giving all she had in that little box for the church works with the request that the priest pray for her intentions.

The reaction of my friend was that he now understood better what Pope Francis said in one of his addresses during his visit here—that we should learn from the poor. Indeed, this is a reprise of that gospel episode of Christ praising the poor widow who gave her two mites more than the rich who gave a lot to the treasury. (cfr Mk 12,41ff)

And given the power and influence that rich people with this graver kind of poverty wields in society, the moral and religious poverty they suffer can in fact be the mainstream in society. That is when we have to see in this mainstream one of the worst peripheries that we have to take care of. We should not ignore this fact. This is a great challenge.

We need to reach out to them for another and deeper conversion of heart so that they can realize their poverty and hopefully start to develop the real Christian poverty of detachment from things and generosity of heart to offer everything they have to God and share what they have with everybody else.

Let’s remember that gospel episode when Christ told a rich young man, who wanted to know how to get to heaven, to sell all that he had and then give to the poor and then to come, follow Christ. (cfr. Mk 10,17ff)

Imagine if we manage to convince the rich to be poor with the Christian spirit of poverty, what immense good these poor rich people can do! We need to reach out to them, especially because it is through their wealth that much of our spiritual and material acts of mercy can be sustained.

In reaching out to the poor, the sick, the handicapped, etc., let’s see to it that we are not contented simply with giving dole-outs that are highly short-lived. We should come out with plans, programs and initiatives that can last long and can be abiding, since as Christ himself said, the poor will always be with us in spite of our best efforts.

We have to involve the rich to help the poor. Then we can turn the hidden poverty of the mainstream to help the poverty of the peripheries.