Our God, the God of Moses, the God we see in Jesus, liberates the poor, seeks justice for those on the margins - for widows and orphans, for workers and the strangers among us. In the Ten Commandments, in the spectacular actions of Jesus faced by the marketing in the Temple, we see a passion for justice, and an awareness that the poor are often left behind.
That theme is right through the bible, through the Jewish scriptures, through the gospels, and the New Testament. They all tell us that law should provide justice for those who don’t have the power of money, or prestige, or status. This is also a theme right through Catholic Social Teaching, one of the treasures we have as Catholics. It’s called the preferential option for the poor, and it reminds us that the human dignity of a refugee, of a disabled person, of a prisoner, of a man or woman living on the streets, their human dignity, their right to be treated with respect and compassion, with justice, is just the same as yours or mine, as that of a politician, a lawyer, or a wealthy man.
The fact that Jesus died without dignity, poor and powerless, the victim of injustice perpetrated by the local religious leaders and the wealthy and powerful Roman rulers, should remind us of the need to listen to the less powerful in any debate about justice, to ask ourselves who are the ones without powerful supporters or wealthy backers.
The reason we refer to a preferential option for the poor and powerless is that the reality of human society is that in most places the wealthy and powerful have little trouble being treated justly, with dignity. The wealthy and powerful don’t need to be given preferential treatment, they normally take it, or buy it, as their due.
Tomorrow is International Women’s Day, and it is worth reflecting on the fact that on balance throughout the world women are poorer, less likely to have access to education, less likely to be treated with justice, than men. In Project Compassion there is often an emphasis on the need to empower women. One of the stories for Project Compassion this year is the story of Oliva, a Tanzanian woman who didn’t receive an education as a child, and was trapped in poverty. This reminds us that education liberates, and that a vital work of the Church throughout the world is to liberate people, particularly women, by education. Through the support of Project Compassion Oliva was educated, and now educates others in her community. Hopefully with a growth in education will come greater access to justice.
In our prayer we have the opportunity to know God’s love for us. The challenge is to realise that that love isn’t just for people like me, but that it is also for those who lack power, influence, and security, for those who aren’t automatically believed. In other words, for the poor. God’s love, and God’s justice, are intimately connected, and our faith as Catholics challenges us to keep that same connection in our prayer and our actions
7 March 2021
Dcn Jim Curtain