Pope Francis says in his Lenten message, “We Christians are called to confront the poverty of our brothers and sisters, to touch it, to make it our own and to take practical steps to alleviate it.” This call goes all the way back to Christ, but it goes much further back than that. It is at the very heart of our faith beginning with Genesis. I came across a prayer recently that demonstrates this:
Remembering God’s Provision for Us
O God, our Provider, you created us and fed us. (Gen 1:26-31)
You called us out of slavery into a land of milk and honey,
And fed us in the desert on the long journey into that abundance. (Ex. 16:1-36)
You established your covenant with us that we might receive the bounty of your blessings as we dwell in harmony and justice.
“Obey all the Lord’s laws and commands and you will have all you want to eat and will live in safety.” (Lev. 25:18-19)
In your wisdom, you arranged periodic corrections of our tendency toward accumulation and injustice.
“Every third year, set aside a tithe of food for the Levites, who have no inheritance, the aliens, orphans, and widows, that they may eat within your towns and be filled.” (Deut. 14:28-29 and Deut. 26:12-13)
“Every seventh year, cancel the debts of those who owe you money.” (Deut. 15:1-6)
“The fiftieth year shall be a Year of Restoration, a Year of Jubilee, when slaves will be returned to their families, debts forgiven, property restored to original owners, and freedom proclaimed to all inhabitants of the land.” (Lev. 25:8-10)
In your special caring for the marginal ones, you established a safety net to provide for those falling through the cracks.
“When you harvest, leave some for aliens, orphans, widows.” (Deut. 24:19-22 and Lev. 19:9-10)
“When a countryman becomes poor, be generous to him. The poor will be with you always, so be generous to them.” (Deut. 15:7-11)
When we lost sight of your justice, thereby rendering our worship empty, your prophets spoke out to correct us.
“Is not this the fast I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke,
“To let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
“Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
“And bring the homeless poor into your house?” (Isaiah 58:6-7)
Your son began his public ministry proclaiming the Year of Jubilee, the freeing of the oppressed and good news to the poor. (Luke 4:18-19)
He cared for the hungry in feeding the multitudes. (Matt. 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17 and John 6:1-14)
And was willing even to violate the law so that his disciples would have food to eat. (Matt. 12:1-8)
Make us aware, O God, of our responsibility to carry out your will in provision for those in need. Amen.
(From the National Council of Churches “Poverty March 2003,” www.ncccusa.org/poverty/povmarch-2003-week-3.html#Resources)
I won’t rehash the statistics. We all know them by now. And that is the shame of it…because we are the only ones who can change poverty into prosperity for everyone. When are we going to take practical steps to alleviate poverty? What will it take? Today I ask myself, what can I do to turn the tide of poverty?