Is our formation bringing us closer to the poor? The life and mission of our Father Founder is characterized by simplicity and options in the service of those in need. The Gospel is filled with several accounts of helping the poor and empowering them, and has clearly articulated Jesus’ option to take side with the poor.
I raised this question because I believe that our relationship with the poor and our life choices reveal much about our spiritual journey. The poor that the Gospel is talking about is far more than those experiencing economic poverty although reaching out to them and the rest of those marginalized in society should be at the center of our mission as they were in Christ’s.
I do not intend to start any theological discourse on the theme of poverty here. Rather, I would like to ponder on how our formation is forming us to be people who not only feel with the poor but also know what it means to be truly poor – both in the physical and material aspects as well as in the spiritual plane. Staying in Barbastro during the first two months of 2016 brought me to reflect on the lives of our martyrs and on their faith in God. Theirs is a faith strong enough to leave everything behind for Him. I saw what it meant to speak of faith as something that is not a “refuge for the fainthearted, but something which enhances our lives” (Lumen Fidei). It made me ask myself how much of our current formation transforms us to be people of faith, to be people who believe that God is with us in the here-and-now, and has never abandoned us and never will. Does our faith allow us to respond whenever mission calls us, whatever is at stake in responding, and wherever our missionary vocation may bring us?
There is more to getting closer to the poor. There is more to being poor. Beyond the externals is an inner disposition of a consecrated person who has surrendered everything to God. Our ministries may vary but what is important above all else is belief in God, trust in His providence, and generosity in one’s response. It is only when we can respond based on this kind of faith that we can say that the person is free to be with the poor, to be poor, and to journey with the poor. This requires formation that puts God at the center of our mission, a formation that leads one to see Christ in the poor and to trust that in our nothingness and perhaps even helplessness, Christ is with us to provide what we can’t give and don’t have to give.
Leo Dalmao, CMF