The last topic for Chapter V is “Charity: Source and Criterion of Mission.” There persists a misunderstanding about the relationship of charity and social justice. At times the former attempts to address the outbreak of need when the latter is neglected. For example, we can continue to pour resources into feeding poor people. This is something that will last forever unless the root causes are addressed.
One of Pope Francis’ most quoted comments is about being a “poor and dirty” Church. He wasn’t the first pope to say it:
As I said during my pastoral visit to Brazil: “The Church all over the world wishes to be the Church of the poor…she wishes to draw out all the truth contained in the Beatitudes of Christ, and especially in the first one: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit.’ …She wishes to teach this truth and she wishes to put it into practice, just as Jesus came to do and to teach.”(Address to the residents of “Favela Vidigal” in Rio de Janeiro, July 2, 1980, 4)
Of course, it takes more than words for something to be so. God can say the Word, and it is. Human beings need to put both work and public policy into the matter.
Pope John Paul II quotes the Latin American bishops, but I’m not sure this is a matter of charity so much as it is social justice, and the realization of the mission of the Lord. Jesus did not exclude the wealthy; indeed, he counted them among his followers. But the true sign of an effective evangelization is the emergence of belief and discipleship in the poor:
The young churches, which for the most part are to be found among peoples suffering from widespread poverty, often give voice to this concern as an integral part of their mission. The Conference of Latin American Bishops at Puebla, after recalling the example of Jesus, wrote that “the poor deserve preferential attention, whatever their moral or personal situation. They have been made in the image and likeness of God to be his children, but this image has been obscured and even violated. For this reason, God has become their defender and loves them. It follows that the poor are those to whom the mission is first addressed, and their evangelization is par excellence the sign and proof of the mission of Jesus.”(Puebla Document, (1979), 3757 (1142))
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