Our century has forgotten to such an extent the Christian language of our parents that it is difficult to speak without involuntarily flattering the passions of bad citizens, and without hurting the timidity of honest people. When we are moved by the advances of pauperism, when we start a cry of alarm that misfortune that introduces hunger and vice in so many desolate homes, when we ask to alleviate so many needs, not only resources but fair reforms, we suffer the inconvenience of seeing us praised by schools of thought with which we have nothing in common, that think that we are theirs because they believe themselves the only guardians of the interests of the people. But we also feel the very lively pain of provoking the reproaches of many Christians, with whom we have everything in common, with the exception of that limited and conflictive terrain of political opinions, and who have the misfortune to see as novelties the truths themselves with they were raised, in which they found their spiritual height and generosity of character.
Frederic Ozanam, “Des dangers de la Charité” [On the dangers of charity], in L’Ère Nouvelle, number of October 29, 1848.
- Seeking justice must necessarily be a foundation of our being and our acting as people of faith. The Incarnation, which just a few days ago we celebrated, reminds us, among other things, that God chooses to approach us and make himself present in the midst of the people, among the needy and the poor. When, later on, Jesus Christ begins his public life, the Gospel of Luke shows Jesus in a synagogue, reading a text from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim the Good News to the poor, He has sent me to proclaim the release of the captives and the sight of the blind, to give freedom to the oppressed and to proclaim a year of the Lord’s grace” (Lk 4:17-24). After reading this text (of Isaiah chapter 61), Jesus says: “This Scripture, which you have just heard, has been fulfilled today.”
- A believer will not be a beleiver if he does not live this essential aspect. Frederic Ozanam was clear to the point that he was surprised that his fellow members criticized the efforts of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul to alleviate poverty, while other non-believers showed their sympathies.
- And yet, as he himself says, this message is nothing new: we see it in Jesus Christ, but also in the first Christians, in the Fathers of the Church, in St. Vincent and St. Louise, in so many testimonies that it is difficult to get away of the real truth: to build the Kingdom is to work for the disinherited of the earth, following the example of our Master.
- In our world there are still too many captives, blind, oppressed…. As followers of Jesus Christ we assume his mission to continue fighting for their liberation, as something that is fundamental in our life as followers of Jesus.
Questions for dialogue:
- Have we experienced the criticism of our brothers and sisters in the faith, for some of our actions? Were they well-founded criticisms?
- Can we collaborate with non-believers in the defense of the impoverished? Do we?
- In light of Luke’s text, where should the foundation of our faith really be?