Our Lord’s parable about the rich man and Lazarus shows us just how much God cares for the poor of this world. It’s a very moving story, but what does it have to do with our lives today? Well, the scriptures tell us that God’s covenant with Israel depended on the way his people treated the poor and those who were unprotected by the law: the widow, the orphan and the stranger. The Jews were not to separate their religious practices from their relationship to the least among them. And neither are we.
The Church’s social teaching challenges us to make a fundamental option for the poor: to speak for the voiceless, to defend the defenceless, to assess lifestyles, policies and social institutions in terms of their impact on the poor. God wants his children to work together to improve the situation of society’s weakest members. At the end of the day, the moral strength of any society will be measured by how we have treated our most vulnerable citizens, not by how we ourselves have fared.
This preferential option for the poor asks us to put the needs of those who struggle to survive ahead of our own needs. It asks us to be careful against growing more and more comfortable while millions of people continue to live in grinding poverty. It calls us to ask what we can do to alleviate the suffering of those who lack the basic necessities of food, shelter, education, and health care. But it’s not just a series of demands. There is also the confidence that each one of us really can help bring justice to the world. We are more powerful than we think. If we all do one small thing to help secure justice to God’s little ones, this world would look a lot more like heaven.