One is truly poor when no one cares

The parable of the prodigal son is a familiar one; its moral and meaning have been presented in many ways. But Jesus, in its telling, used the story for a very specific purpose. As Monsignor Edward Buelt describes it in A New Friendship, “Here Jesus gives us a clue as to what true poverty is—both physical poverty and poverty of spirit. Even when materially destitute after having squandered his inheritance, the son was not completely impoverished. Even when a natural crisis erupted in the form of famine, he still hadn’t reached rock bottom. Even when longing to eat the same husks he was feeding to the pigs, he still wasn’t completely broken. Lower still than all these depths, than all these poverties, his deepest poverty lay in the fact that no one cared for him. One is truly poor when no one cares. The true inheritance the younger son wasted was neither his money nor his possessions. It was his father’s care. Only when he understood that no one else cared for him did he understand how much his father did.” [Emphasis mine]

One is truly poor when no one cares.”  When one is forgotten, unloved and uncared for, when one is alone and isolated, that is the cruelest form of poverty. It is the poverty of the spirit that Jesus warns us throughout the gospels. When asked which is the greatest commandment he tells us “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” [Mt 22:37-39].

Jesus teaches us that love of God and love of neighbor are so tightly intertwined that they are nearly equal in importance. You cannot love God if you do not love your neighbor; if you love your neighbor, you will, as a direct and immediate result, love God.

But, as the scholar of the law asked — and as we often ask — “…who is my neighbor” [Lk 10:29]? The simplest answer and the most accurate one is anyone who was created in the image and likeness of God, that is, everyone is your neighbor. The poor in spirit cannot be determined by outward signs of success or failure, but rather by their incapacity to love and to care for others.

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said that “The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.” and “The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.” We will each be judged by the measure of love and care we gave to those less fortunate. For most of us providing a loaf of bread or a can of soup is a simple, easy gesture. Offering our love and tender mercy to those who feel unloved, unwanted, alone, and isolated is a much more difficult thing to do.

Deacon Chuck

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: http://deaconscorner.org. Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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