Saturday, August 10, 2013
The Trouble with the Poor
The trouble with the poor is that they are messy.
There is a secluded area between the church and our hall, a passage, occasionally we find someone has got a few cardboard boxes together and has slept there and if it has been raining leaves a sodden blanket, cardboard there to be cleaned up, often it also smells of urine and there is often excrement there and sometimes a used needle or two.
There is a man who comes into the church, especially during the trad Mass and during the silence of the Canon will pray aloud, "Jesus, I want you to bless Fr Ray and ...., and God, can you persuade the good people here to give to the poor, I am poor", unchecked he will take his cap off and have a collection. It makes a mess of our prayers, it stops some coming to Mass here.
If they are not doing that they are ringing the door bell at every hour of the day and night, and they tell lies. They tell you their Gran is dying in Southampton and they need the train fare, you give it to them and if you don't find them drunk in the street they are back the next day and the other Gran is dying in Hastings this time.
After delivering the poor, the treasure of the Roman Church, to Valerian's palace Laurence was grilled to death. What I don't believe is, the legend tells us, Laurence said to his executioners when he had been on the griddle sometime, "turn me over, I am done on this side". I don't believe it but there is an important message in these words, even in our pain and suffering we can grow complacent, 'the poor' challenge our complacency. They interrupt our comfort, our prayer, our routine bringing the mess of their lives into our lives.
There is an interesting discussion on sin on Cranmer's blog, sin indeed is a metaphysical reality, the Protestant argument was against the pre-reformation Catholic Pelagian practice of salvation through works, the Catholic conter-reformation argument was against Protestant belief that once you were saved you were saved. Catholic's believe the great danger in Protestantism is complacency, having received 'the blessed assurance' of Salvation one can relax. The Catholic doctrine is that complacency about salvation is dangerous, hence the counter-reformation and biblical teaching of 'faith fruitful in good works', no 'assurance' can guarantee salvation, it is God's free gift, unknown to us until judgement day.
The sin of the Pharisees, of the rich man in the story of Dives and Lazarus is complacence. The rich man didn't even notice the mess that Lazarus created at his front door, he didn't respond to it, he needed someone to bring him out of his complacency.
My big difficulty with confession at the moment is that I have grown complacent in my lifestyle, I don't want it changed, the message of the Gospels seem to be let the poor into it to mess it up a little.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake