The Liberation of the poor: the Vincentian Rule to Make the Gospel of Jesus Christ Effective (1)

Francisco Javier Fernández ChentoVincentian FormationLeave a Comment

Author: Santiago Barquín, CM · Translator: Charles T. Plock, CM. · Year of first publication: 2002 · Source: Hacer efectivo el evangelio y mundo actual, XXVII Semana de Estudios Vicencianos, Editorial CEME, Santa Marta de Tormes, Salamanca, 2002, p. 243-340..
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We can say that coming to evangelize the poor does not simply mean to teach them the mysteries necessary for their salvation, but also to do what was foretold and prefigured by the prophets to make the gospel effective (CCD:XII:75)1.

When this presentation was proposed to me, I was also given the title, namely, to make the gospel and the liberation of the poor effective. I liked the theme and I immediately began to look for material related to the concepts of “the gospel” and “liberation”. During my research I discovered that there is a very close relationship between the gospel and liberation. I concluded that today when we engage in the struggle for the liberation of those who are poor, when we attempt to make this liberation a reality for all those persons who find themselves assaulted and battered by life and excluded from being able to rejoice in life … when we do this, we are utilizing the best means that we, as followers of Jesus Christ and Vincent de Paul, have available to us … the best means that enable us to make the gospel effective, the best means to evangelize. Since Vincent demanded that his followers make the gospel effective in their preaching and in their ministry of charity, I decided, after much reflection, to change the title of this presentation to the following: The liberation of the poor: the Vincentian Rule to make the gospel of Jesus Christ effective. Yes, the title is somewhat lengthy and perhaps it is also ambitious.

In this presentation I offer you my reflections on the liberation of the poor. I am aware of the fact that despite my efforts, these reflections have not fully matured. For this I would have needed much more time for research and reflection. I would have had to read many more writings on the theology of liberation which I believe has best utilized the synoptic resources and best interpreted what is expressed in those writings regarding the gospel of Jesus Christ or, if you will, the good news that Jesus proclaimed to the world. The enthusiasm that Jesus sparked in the poor and the marginalized of his era … the manner in which those men and women followed him … all of this is a clear sign that those individuals understood Jesus and that Jesus knew how to respond to their questions and their felt needs. The people discovered that Jesus was with them … that he was one of them. Here, then, we have the key to the problem of liberation of evangelization: to be in the midst of those who are evangelized and to be one of them. It seems as though this has been the difficulty that the task of evangelization has had to confront throughout the centuries. When some people, like Vincent de Paul, become aware of this key concept, then evangelization became effective, efficient and liberating.

I do not want to weary you with this presentation, but here at the beginning I want to take ownership of the words of an exegete, Ángel Gil, who commented on the liturgical texts for Sunday, August 12, 2001 and stated: The Kingdom of God has begun, but it is not yet. A calm silence encompasses our life as Christians as we await the final divine revelation. This is not simply some stage of waiting like a prisoner awaiting the day of his/her release … rather we become involved in a process of hopeful waiting. A profound silence and a productive waiting should transform our whole existence. Injustice must give way to justice and oppression must give way to a generous liberation. Only a Church that liberates people, only such a church can instill hope in all people, at all times. This indeed should be the eternal and sacred law of Christians … everything else is meaningless2.

I believe that those words speak for themselves. We are in a time of waiting, but active and hopeful waiting … waiting and engaged in activity that transforms the world order and also transforms sin that enslaves the present structures of our world. We are engaged in activity that transfigures all existing reality and eliminates injustice, oppression, misery and exploitation … thus we give meaning to that generous liberation. If this does not occur then our life is meaningless. Therefore, this must be the eternal and sacred law of Christians, namely, to work for the liberation of the poor. Shouldn’t this be the Vincentian rule that enables us, who have opted to live according to the spirit of Vincent de Paul … shouldn’t this be the Vincentian rule that enables us to make the gospel of Jesus Christ effective.

  1. Vincent de Paul, Correspondence, Conferences, Documents, New City Press, Brooklyn, New York, 1985-2010. Future references to this work will be cited in the text with the letters, CCD, followed by the volume number and then the page number [for example, CCD:XII:75].
  2. Ángel Gil, Exégesis primera lectura, reflexiones (Reflections on the First Reading), DABAR, año XXVII, #43, Ciclo C, August 12, 2001, Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time.

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