Pope Francis in his encyclical, The Joy of Gospel, when he wrote about the social dimension of Evangelization he mentions the special place of the poor in God’s people, by refereeing to some of the Gospel passages.
Salvation came to us from the “yes” uttered by a lowly maiden from a small town on the fringes of a great empire. The Savior was born in a manger, in the midst of animals, like children of poor families; he was presented at the Temple along with two turtledoves, the offering made by those who could not afford a lamb (cf. Lk 2:24; Lev 5:7); he was raised in a home of ordinary workers and worked with his own hands to earn his bread.
He began his ministry by saying; “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor” (Lk 4:18). The crowds who followed him everywhere were poor.
He assured those burdened by sorrow and crushed by poverty that God has a special place for them in his heart: “Blessed are you poor, yours is the kingdom of God” (Lk 6:20); he made himself one of them: “I was hungry and you gave me food to eat”, and he taught them that mercy towards all of these is the key to heaven (cf. Mt 25:5ff.).
Bernard Pujo in his famous book, Vincent De Paul, The Trailblazer, summarizes beautifully Vincent’s long journey of conversion and the role of the poor in that conversion.
After so many travels and shifts, with his goal finally attained, Vincent began to realize the emptiness of everything that he had wished so ardently to grasp: material ease, important titles, the company of the powerful. It was his work with the rural poor that brought him a sense of his own accomplishment. After a long passage through a tunnel, he caught sight of a glow that promised light and certainty.
Vincent on his long journey of conversion had met and served so many masters who were rich political and ecclesial leaders. They all had their role and influence in the conversion of Vincent. But as Pujo wrote; “It was his work with the rural poor that brought him a sense of his own accomplishment.”
This may be one the reasons why Vincent told us that “the poor are our masters.” The poor have much to teach us. Like the poor widow of the Gospel, their faith is great. Their patience and endurance amidst suffering make them more like Christ. Their love is true and the joy is real. We can never become true evangelizers of the poor, unless we are not evangelized by them first.
About the Author:
Fr. Binoy Puthusery, C.M. is a Vincentian priest belonging to the Southern Indian Province. He was ordained as priest on December 27, 2008 and soon after served as an assistant parish priest in Tanzania. In 2011, after two years of ministry, he was appointed as Spiritual Director to the Vincentian Sisters of Mercy, Mbinga Tanzania, where he still is today.