Blessed are the Poor?

We often have our Legion events or camps at a certain parish in the East. The parish serves many, which includes the surrounding private estate, relatively old HDB flats, with the notorious red light district close by.

On many occasions we have encountered vagrants, vagabonds, and panhandlers begging for food. Last week I encountered the same thing. One fellow was so persistent that he went from room to room inside the church building to beg.

If I was parish priest here, I’d be terrified. Imagine people coming to your rectory asking you for food everyday. If you feed them, you are helping them. If you refuse them, you risk losing a chance for outreach. I once saw a priest giving ten dollars to one such fellow. Another one called to refer one to a welfare agency. Another one took the man to the coffee shop to eat. To be honest, priests are lucky when people only see their good side.

We have the human tendency to dismiss these people as good-for-nothings or madmen that normal people should all avoid. But they are still human beings who require dignity. Even the scum of the earth would like to have some dignity whether they admit it or not.

How do we serve and help those who do not wish to be helped or are obviously taking advantage of the kindness of others? How do we show dignity to people who do not seem like they deserve it?

We must recognize our limits. We cannot help everybody. As a rule of thumb, we should not give money, lest they indulge in evil pursuits such as drinking or gambling.

Pastors must consider one fact about these people: If their bodies are engaged in disorder, their spiritual evils must be worse.

If Mother Church teaches us to be good and loving, how do we learn to love such unlovely people? For Our Lord says, ‘Whatever you do to the least of your brothers you do unto me.’

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Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us

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