Receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit (1 Thes 1, 6)
It is easy to recite the two inseparable commandments on which the whole law and the prophets depend. What we find difficult is to love concretely the invisible God by loving the neighbor we see.
And even harder to love are those we cannot avoid but do not want to see. They are everywhere nowadays, in the poorest countries and in the richest, men and women of sorrow and suffering, without stately bearing, without beauty.
They are unavoidable because, in the first place, we are them and they are us. They poignantly point to the precariousness and insecurity of human life, to our being fundamentally poor. What is happening to them can easily happen to us.
Could it be because of this that we spurn them and hold them in no esteem, and we do not look at them? We do not want to be reminded of our vulnerability and of our being only several paychecks away from being evicted. But as much as we try, we cannot deny our real condition.
In the second place, the Son of God willed to become poor. To be with “God-with-us” is to be with the poor. It is impossible to flee from the one who remains faithful even to the unfaithful, for he cannot deny himself. He hounds the unfaithful unceasingly and tirelessly.
And in fact, we do need him. What would we do without him? Who would bear our infirmities and sufferings? Who would carry our offenses and our chastisement? Who would warn us of the sad and painful end of those who are greedy and do not care about the helpless? Who would show us full compliance to the law and the prophets?
Indeed, the presence of the poor is indispensable. He is knocking on the door of our heart and shouting, so that welcoming him affectionately, we may be saved from self-centeredness that, deaf and blind to others, devotes itself to gaining the whole world, but only to ruin everything and everybody. The poor enriches us by his poverty.
His poverty testifies to an unusual life that conforms to the paradoxical teaching: “Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Jesus invites us to this life, to participation in his body and blood, to the Church of the poor. What are we waiting for, then?
Are we revolted by his outward appearance and his smell? If we turn the medal, as St. Vincent urges us to do (Coste XI:32), we will long for him and we will breathe in the fragrance he breathes out.
Lord Jesus, teach us to love you as St. Vincent de Paul loved you.