By Tom Quiner
Joseph was conceived 40 days ago.
His parents are worth one billion dollars. Nonetheless, he is poor.
Joseph has nothing but the hopes and dreams inherit in the human potential of each of us at conception.
Maria also was conceived 40 days ago.
Her parents are poor. Nonetheless, she is rich.
Like Joseph, she has all the hopes and dreams inherit in her human potential. But she has something else that is priceless, something that Joseph doesn’t have.
She has tomorrow.
Joseph was aborted an hour ago because his parents did not see his value.
Maria will live. Her parents believe they are rich beyond words because they have been blessed with a child.
The newly elected pope has made it clear that he is an advocate for the poor by the name he selected, Pope Francis. He explained why:
“And so the name came to my heart: Francis of Assisi. For me he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and safeguards Creation. In this moment when our relationship with Creation is not so good—right?—He is the man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man … Oh, how I wish for a Church that is poor and for the poor!”
This is a pope who will continue and build on the Church’s mission to “safeguard Creation,” who will advocate for the human dignity of the Josephs and Marias in the world.
Poverty is a world-wide issue. It takes different forms. Here in the U.S., it is not a material crisis as much as it is a spiritual crisis. Our poor are rich compared to the rest of the world, according to government data:
All our poor have access to free, public education.
43% own their own home. The average size of this home was three-bedrooms with one-and-a-half baths, a garage and a porch or patio.
Eighty percent have air conditioning.
Only 6% of the houses are overcrowded.
Three-quarters own a car, and 31% own two cars.
The overwhelming majority of our poor have cell phones, DVD players, microwave ovens, color televisions and more.
The poor have access to 127 federal poverty programs, not to mention a myriad of programs at the state and local level that provides a minimal safety net of some $22,000 per year for a family of four.
Our poorest of the poor, the preborn, are missing something every other poor person in America has: legal standing. North Dakota just passed the most restrictive anti-abortion measure in the country, one which would begin protecting human life at six weeks, or about 42 days, which still would not have protected Joseph and Mary in my example above.
This great nation suffers from a profound form of poverty when it no longer treasures its posterity, as exemplified by 55 million abortions since the Roe v Wade decision in 1973.
Jesus talked about the poor at length. He loved them with a burning passion. He called on us to reach out and lend them a helping hand, or our coat, or a meal. But he said something odd in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:3:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”
What does this mean? Fr. Robert Barron, author of “The Catholicsm Project,” explains:
“This is neither a romanticizing of economic poverty nor a demonization of wealth, but rather a formula for detachment. Might I suggest a somewhat variant rendition: how blessed are you if you are not attached to material things, if you have not placed the goods that wealth can buy at the center of your concern? When the Kingdom of God is your ultimate concern, not only will you not become addicted to material things; you will, in fact, be able to use them with great effectiveness for God’s purposes.”
Pope Francis is going to challenge us all in good ways. For Americans, his message will be a double-edged sword. He warns us not to get wrapped up in materialism which breeds spiritual poverty. And he calls on us to safeguard Creation.
Words to live by.