2019 CFCUSA Pastoral Formation Materials:
Caring for the Poor (Roh50)
Dear CFC USA Family:
Happy Thanksgiving! A day of Love!
A Blessed day to all.
As we continue to embark on our Great Crusade with the Operation For Our Lord (OP4OL) initiative, let’s put ourselves into the hands of the Lord, and pray that God will bless us and our families during these forthcoming holidays. May we all help make our home a place of joy, love, peace and safety, full of gratitude and thanksgiving for His many blessings to our families and CFC Community.
Loving God, Creator of all times and places, we bless you for allowing us to celebrate Thanksgiving.
As we open our eyes and ears to your many blessings, big and small, open our hearts to receive all as gift. Let us open our self to helping the poor and our mission in Central America and other mission areas all over the world. Let our hearts be transformed to be ready, equipped and excited to fulfill our God-given mission. This we ask in Jesus name through the intercession of our blessed Mother, one God forever and ever, Amen.
I hope that you find the attached November pastoral formation materials helpful in our OP4OL - ANCOP One Light One Life initiative.
In Christ through Mary,
Bro. Roger Santos
© COPYRIGHT 2019 COUPLES FOR CHRIST, USA
THEME/TOPIC OF THE MONTH: The Spirit of Giving: Caring for the Poor
Driven by its VISION, the Couples for Christ’s mission is: “To build the Church of the Home and the Church of the Poor”. These are the two essential pillars of the mission of Couples for Christ.
When your CALL becomes your fundamental purpose, your vocation and your mission – a sense of direction, is revealed to you. Your priorities are revised. The urge to use all your potential gifts and resources emerges. Then, you realize that there is something more to your life than just living day-by-day, and that whatever you do becomes a ministry – a transforming work of God.
Purpose generates energy.
Purpose creates passion.
Purpose gives one peace.
But a call or vocation presumes Someone who is calling you to something. And this Someone invites you to know Him and to love Him … and then to follow Him. Clearly,
the One who calls is God in our Lord Jesus Christ (Emmanuel – “God with us”). If we are to understand somewhat clearer the call of Jesus, we need to know Him and His ways in order to better follow His footsteps. Remember this always: mission always follows a transforming encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ. This is what differentiates our mission from the mission of any other organization or group that have a similar mission with Couples for Christ.
“The poor are our passport to paradise”. These were the words of Pope Francis when he declared the first World Day for the Poor at the end of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. He also said: “In the poor, we find the presence of Jesus, who, though rich, became poor. Because of this, in their weakness, a saving power is present. And if in the eyes of the world they have little value, they are the ones who open to us the way to heaven.” Again, he also said that caring for the needy has a saving power because in them we see the face of Christ. He then urged Christians to overcome indifference and seek ways to actively love the poor that they meet. We have an evangelical duty to care for the poor. To love the poor means to combat all forms of poverty, spiritual and material.
Our role as CFC members calls us today to offer some words of encouragement to all who are here to answer the call of Jesus to care for the poor through the ANCOP
programs of CFC Global Family. Following are reflections, in particular, for your prayer and self-examination of your personal response to the invitation of Christ to you to care for the poor and the needy.
JESUS, THE ADVOCATE FOR THE POOR:
Jesus had a special sense of mission to poor and oppressed people. At the outset of His ministry – sometimes referred to as Jesus’ mission statement, Jesus stood up in the synagogue at Nazareth and read from the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed Me to preach Good News to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).
The biographies of Jesus depict Him repeatedly reaching out to those at the bottom of the social pyramid – poor people, women, Samaritans, lepers, children, prostitutes and tax collectors. Jesus was also eager to accept people who were well-placed, but He made clear that all, regardless of social position, needed to repent. For this reason, He invited the rich young man to sell all his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor(Matthew 19:16-30 / Luke 18:18-30 / Mark 10:17-31).
Jesus commanded: “Love your neighbor”. When asked to define “neighbor”, Jesus expanded the traditional meaning of the word – defining our “neighbor” as anyone who
is in need, including social outcasts: “But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed” (Luke 14:13). Again, in His portrayal of the day of judgment, Jesus pictured people from all nations gathered before Him, separated into “sheep” and “goats” (Matthew 25:31-46). To the sheep He says: “Come you blessed of My Father, for I was hungry, and you fed me …” In their astonishment they ask: “When did we do that?” And He answers: “When you did it to the lowliest of My brothers and sisters”. Conversely, to the goats, He says; “Out of my sight, you who are condemned, for I was hungry, and you did not feed me …”
Jesus Himself cared for those in need by feeding the hungry. Crowds of four thousand (Mark 8:1-13) and five thousand (Mark 6:30-44) had assembled to listen to Jesus. They soon became hungry. When His disciples suggested that Jesus send the people away to buy food, He responded by saying, “I have compassion on these people …” and “you give them something to eat”. Jesus then proceeded to perform miracles to feed these large crowds of hungry people.
We are called to take care of the poor.
If God is willing to take care of His children every day, we should be willing to also take care of those who need provisions. Before Jesus paid for our sins on the cross, we were all in dire need of help. We were poor because we all stood in judgment of God’s wrath. Jesus’ death for us completely covered every single sin and took us out of God’s wrath. If Jesus can show that much love to a poor humanity, we can certainly show as much love as possible to the poor that need help, whether it is financially, physically or emotionally.
A reading of the Law, Proverbs, Prophets and the New Testament clearly show that God exhorts His people to actively care for the poor while admonishing any mistreatment of, or indifference toward, the needy.
There are many teachings from Jesus on the poor. We are all called to help the poor. We are called to be poor in spirit. We also learn how great a person’s faith is when they are financially poor and still depending on God for sustenance. The early Church modeled “social concern”. In the Book of Acts, chapter 6, seven godly
men were designated by the leaders of the Church to focus their attention on caring for the widows (here representing marginalized people – those who have a tough time or are unable to care for themselves). In 1 Timothy 5, St Paul gives specific instruction to the “Body of Christ” on how to care for widows. Also, James acknowledges our tendency, even as believers, to favor the rich and ignore the poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised those who love Him (James 2:5). Quoting Jesus and the Old Testament, James says that to keep the royal law is to “love your neighbor as yourself”.
WHY DO WE LACK CONCERN FOR THE POOR AND THE MARGINALIZED?
Clearly, these teachings build our conviction in our hearts concerning God’s desire for the Church to care for the poor and marginalized. Given the scriptural support surrounding this aspect of God’s Kingdom, we may ask: Why do many Christians still fail to demonstrate significant concern in our concern for the poor?
For our reflection, allow me to enumerate some reasons for this lack of concern for the poor and marginalized:
We do not learn what the Scriptures say about caring for “social” issues in life.
2. POOR THEOLOGY:
Platonic thought has crept into Christianity. Many of us were taught that the soul is all that matters, and we should be indifferent toward the physical realm. While the believer is exhorted to live for eternal purposes and not just temporal ones, the body and its needs are never passed off as second rate or something to be ignored.
Our tendencies towards selfishness and laziness tell us that it is just easier to ignore social issues. We tend to forget the poor, thinking that we cannot do anything about their poverty or we convince ourselves that they are not our problem.
We are afraid that if we give too much attention to the social needs of the world we will be accused of preaching the “social gospel” (liberation theology). Just because some secularists and spiritually dead churches have abandoned the precious truth of Christ does not mean that we alter God’s Kingdom agenda in retaliation. We need to stay the course in pursuing God’s Kingdom agenda in both spiritual matters and social/physical matters.
Ways we justify our neglect of the poor—
1 “I am only around those who are well off.”
Have you seriously considered these questions?
Why do you live where you live?
Have you surrendered this decision to the Lord?
Are you showing favoritism by avoiding poor people or low-income neighborhoods?
Are you clinging to comfort or justifying your inaction?
Often, the reason we do not care for the poor is because we do not know the poor.
Are you putting yourself in a place where you can invest in relationships and truly love your neighbor as yourself?
2 “The Bible is only concerned with the spiritually poor.”
On the contrary, the Bible encourages spiritual poverty, because it leads to understand our spiritual need for the lordship of Christ. Further, the Scriptures support the theological framework of caring for the physically poor.
3 “Do the poor really experience injustice and exploitation?
We only need to look around us and the world.
Where are the landfills placed?
How is zoning done?
Do the poor who live near you have opportunities for redemption or are they stuck in cycles of poverty?
What government policies are keeping the poor in poverty, rather than helping them out of it?
Are certain ethnic or other types of groups seemingly stuck in the cycle of poverty?
If efforts are being made towards serving the poor near you, are they helping to alleviate poverty (empowering individuals) or are they quick fixes to the problems of poverty (band aids that enforce the cycle of poverty)?
4 “I am just being discerning with those I choose to help.”
We do need to be discerning in whom we help and how we help (not creating dependency, not being patronizing, etc.). In 1 Timothy 5:3-16, St. Paul instructs the body of believers to help those widows “who are really in need”. He instructs family members to care for their poor members first, allowing the Church to care for those who have no one to help them. He instructs the Church to give to the widows who are over sixty who have modeled good character (most likely because they are unable to earn money for themselves). We know that some (not all) people that need help will not do their part in working. Proverbs warns us that laziness, the love of pleasure, and alcohol abuse will lead to poverty. It does not say that people who struggle in these areas are not to be cared for, but these things will need to be changed in order to bring about true reform in people’s lives. Scripture clearly advocates for the poor and the marginalized in the world, for caring for their needs and pursuing justice on their behalf. We are not to neglect the spiritual needs for social ones, nor social needs for those that are spiritual. These two areas of need are not in opposition. On the contrary, Jesus Christ demonstrates care for the whole person, body and spirit. As His followers, we must demonstrate the same, not allowing bad theology, laziness and poor excuses to keep us from addressing the social needs of our communities. We need to search for ways to help someone who is poor and see what blessings God pours out.
What we need to do
This very challenging call cannot be properly responded to unless we take on the very heart of Jesus and we understand the meaning of the coming of God’s kingdom in
our midst. But we cannot also take on the heart and mind of Jesus unless we undergo profound personal transformation in Christ. And this can only happen through the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.
HOW CAN GOD WORK IN OUR LIVES TO CHANGE US?
By Repentance, Faith and Empowerment
We repent of our sins against the poor. We turn away from living a life according to the ways of the world, by being poor in spirit. We are all called to be:
1. Humble - our attitude should be, what is God teaching me in this encounter?
2. Obedient - following God’s ways in every situation and undertaking and appreciating God’s stand and command, knowing that there is so much to learn from obeying,
denying self and allowing the Spirit to teach us, rather than insist on what we know and how we do things, even why we justify doing them the way we do.
3. Trusting - we came into the world empty-handed; we shall leave this world in the same manner. There is nothing we own, everything comes from the richness of God’s
mercy and love. We are indeed beholden to God - even our thoughts, our dreams, our future. They were all bestowed upon us by God.
4. Learning - we are always in a growth mode asking God to generously provide. We need to always know how things connect, what God is teaching us, what plans He has for us. There is so much to be discovered. Each day is a new creation and God continues to unfold its novelty.
5. Simple - since we look to the riches that God provides, we continue to detach ourselves from the world’s goods keeping life simple and manageable, knowing that what
man creates is finite, mortal and has an end.
6. Loving - we invest more in relationships, knowing it is there where we will discover Christ - in our neighbor. We spend more time and effort in opening and sustaining
relationships than in amassing property and wealth.
7. Prayerful - time with God is essential. It is there where we get to know God’s mind, His deepest thoughts and cares. We can look forward to being enriched, enhanced, and empowered through an active relationship with God
8. Patient - there is very little of this in the world today because the world does not know and understand the infiniteness of God. What the world knows is that
everything has an end, a closing, and a finish. God asks us to extend our patience as far as He works it out in us.
9. Faithful - there can be miracles when we believe. Believing empowers one to create. Believing extends out limitation to realize our full capacity. God can work through us if we allow Him to.
10. Generous - believing that there are always better things when God reigns, we freely dissociate our lives from what physically shines, attracts and lures us. We are rather drawn to the more invincible riches that God lays before us.
Then we renew our faith in Jesus as our Savior and Lord. We decide to live a new life for Him, accepting only His ways of righteousness. In doing so, we allow Jesus to teach us His ways, through prayer, the Bible and fellowship.
We also recognize that our lives need to be empowered by Jesus’ Spirit. For even as we have become Christians, we still often live weak and powerless lives. We are easily defeated and fall prey to the devil. We can only follow in the ways of Jesus if we are empowered by the Spirit of Jesus.
With God’s calling and constantly listening to what God was telling you in everything you have known on His love for the poor, how do you see yourself in the totality of this life and mission?
If you see yourself giving your all to support and be one with the Lord in His work, here’s a call to action as we profess to the following verse: 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 the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.
PRAYER OF THE MONTH
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary of Guadalupe, that in thy celestial apparitions on the mount of Tepeyac, thou didst promise to show thy compassion and pity towards all who, loving and trusting thee, seek thy help and call upon thee in their necessities and afflictions.
Thou didst promise to hearken to our supplications, to dry our tears and to give us consolation and relief. Never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession, either for the common welfare, or in personal anxieties, was left unaided.
Inspired with this confidence, we fly unto thee, O Mary, ever Virgin Mother of the True God! Though grieving under the weight of our sins, we come to prostrate ourselves in thy august presence, certain that thou wilt deign to fulfill thy merciful promises. We are full of hope that, standing beneath thy shadow and protection, nothing will trouble or afflict us, nor need we fear illness, or misfortune, or any other sorrow.
Thou hast decided to remain with us through thy admirable image, thou who art our Mother, our health and our life. Placing ourselves beneath thy maternal gaze and having recourse to thee in all our necessities we need do nothing more. O Holy Mother of God, despise not our petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer us.