Looking after the Discriminated and the less Privileged
Anand Amaladass S. J.
Those who opt for the mission among the poor must wrestle with the question raised by Catherine of Siena in her Dialogue (no. 33): “How can these wretched evil people share their possessions with the poor when they are already stealing from them?.” A spirituality of the poor has been part of the Christian experience from the beginning. In the second half of the 20th century, the spirituality of the poor has become central to a new insight into Christology and ecclesiology. Now it forms the basis of global and ecological awareness.
John Paul II was always referring to the parable of the rich man and the poor Lazarus. (Luke 16, 19–31) saying that it must form our conscience. It has a global significance, as we all share the common ecological environment. Lazarus is the world.
For example, there is a house in Kovalam, near Mahapalipuram for the elderly, rather abandoned women run by the sisters of the Bon Soecour congregation called St. John de Britto Home. There are at present 35 women in this home. They are looked after giving all the material and spiritual help. They also organize programme for the transgender women, provide them with the basic necessities such as dress and food. What is noteworthy here is that they are treated with dignity and respect.
They are doing this sort of service to the poor for the last 30 years in this place. For the last five years Sr. Sebasti is in charge of this house and we congratulate her and her team who set an example that it does make sense to look after the vulnerable in society. It requires first of all faith to sustain this sort of work. That gives them meaning in life. Being human means being dedicated to a cause which in the eyes of world may not look glamorous.
These sisters have also another house in Perumpannaiyur near Tiruvarur where elderly men and women are looked after. Again in Velankanni these sisters are looking after such people, though the house belongs to the diocese. This is only an example of giving hope to people who are abandoned and helpless.
While defending the woman who anointed his feet with expensive perfume, Jesus said: “For, you have the poor always with you, but you will not always have me.” (Matthew, 26, 11) This is not to be understood in a fatalistic sense. It echoes the book of Deuteronomy, “The poor will never cease out of the land” (Deut. 15, 11), not because of what God has done, not because the land is not able to support the entire population, not because this is expected in any human community — but because people have freely chosen to disobey the divine will. (Leslie J. Hoppe, 1986).
If poverty does exist, then it is not because it is inevitable according to the laws of economics or because of some failures on the part of the poor. Poverty is the result of human decisions to ignore the divine Law. The land and its wealth belong to no one absolutely. Along with the material blessings enjoyed by the wealthy comes the responsibility to care for those with special economic needs.
About the Author:
Anand Amaladass S. J. after his retirement as professor of philosophy and religion, devotes his time for research and publication. His present research focuses on aesthetic spirituality and option for the least, Jesuit history in India and Tamilology.