''Love is a power given by God to all creatures''/ reflections by Patriarch Michel Sabbah

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Sunday 24.2.2019

"The poor are always with you”. This is not a judgment, meaning that poverty must remain in human societies. All humanity, without exception, is called to work and develop the Earth in order to ensure an equally dignified life for all human beings. Every human being is called upon to overcome poverty. The Earth and the creation of God are equal for all as it has been since creation until today.

The human being was a good creation and there was a moment when evil controlled humanity, an evil which implies discrimination and a cause of poverty. But evil should not dominate; it has to be fought so that man will return to his original goodness which God endowed him with.

When evil became part of human life, man turned a blind eye to his brother’s poverty and tries even to strip him of the little he possessed, and to go as far as to kill him. Evil which is something old in humanity is not the origin: goodness is the origin. God created us in His image and likeness; He created us as good as He is. Hence, the need to return to the goodness that is the origin in us, in all humanity. Life for all, individuals and societies, is a continuous return to what we have been, to what God has created us, good brothers and sisters, and equally having a dignified life.

Monday 25.2.2019

How did we face poverty? In Christianity, the commandment of love brought believers and the Church as a community to create diverse institutions in order to confront various types of poverty. Hospitals were built to accommodate and treat patients; orphanages, schools and rehabilitation homes were opened for the handicapped even before governments and states could carry out their duties.

When states took the responsibility to protect and serve individuals and groups, and organized and provided various services in society, the Church nevertheless continued to provide services in the name of the same commandment of love which inspires churches, communities and believers.

Today we have reached a point in which social services offered by the Church require more financial means and organization. The commandment is conditioned by the availability of necessary funds. The issue of the rich and the poor also appeared here; the rich who can contribute to support institutions in order to allow them to continue their services. This crisis is emerging today especially in educational institutions. This issue is pending as it needs dialogue between all, the state, the Church institutions and the faithful in order to consider the proper way in which the Church can continue its charity in this domain.

How much should the Church, as an institution and a community, contribute to the financial burdens? And can it implement the mission? What is the share of responsibility of the believers as community or individuals?

It is a subject that requires more discussion, and dialogue between the Church, state, and believers.

Tuesday 26.2.2019

We also faced poverty with "alms”. We give “alms” to the poor that we encounter or we know, to help them get their bread. Many good people are taking care of many poor families. Individuals and charities do this. It is a good action.

To the poor people who cannot work, individual benevolences and charities care for them and preserve their dignity. There are also beggars in the streets, a by-product of our unorganized society. They are a shame in the dignity of each of us. Transient or permanent alms are not enough to restore their dignity.
Alms are good; charities are good but they are not enough to address the issue of poverty or to restore the dignity of the poor. Many are poor because our social order is wrong and is based on wrong economic structures. Many have certificates and qualifications but find no work. These alms cannot be a way of dealing with them. Alms are rather humiliating for them. Alms do not absolve those in charge of their obligations. The state, as well as the affluent people bear the responsibility, and must be accountable for their incapacity of guaranteeing a fair distribution of wealth in society.

Wednesday 27.2.2019

The issue of poverty cannot be properly addressed by charity or giving alms. Every human being is the image of God on Earth that belongs to God; therefore, all human beings should equally enjoy the resources of Earth. Besides alms or charity, social justice is required and an economic system that guarantees this justice. The state is responsible and all people who possess the wealth of Earth. A reform which establishes a comprehensive social justice is needed.

The situation in Arab countries is generally strange. It may be similar in many other countries of the so-called "Third World". These countries are rich in resources, few people are rich and many are poor. Though there is money, science and universities, where does poverty come from? Is it the outcome of corruption, ignorance or incompetence of governments? Do universities teach theories and do not care for dealing with the human reality, with poverty? Or is it also compliance with global world systems and interests at the expense of the peoples of the region?

Money exists, so poverty must be eliminated.

It is true that money belongs to those who have it, but the land of God belongs to all the creatures of God.

Thursday 28.2.2019

Church, money and poverty!

Lord Jesus Christ cared for the poor. He recommended them to our love. We read the parable of poor Lazarus and the rich man. Jesus tells us that everyone must care for the poor; everyone must work to eradicate poverty. He who works to remove poverty is a human being, a believer, a true servant or governor in society and in the Church. The leaders are not those who dominate but those who serve and care for the poor, those who work to remove poverty. No one should remain poor in a human society.

Similarly, in the Church too, caring for the poor means organizing the community of believers so that each one takes care of the others. Everybody knows everybody, the poor and the needy. Everyone is interested in all and everyone. No one is left to struggle alone with poverty.

It is said that the first thing which distinguishes a faith community is its prayer every day or once a week. The truth is that the first thing that distinguishes a faith community is its love and caring for each other, and not to abandon the poor. Therefore, when the community meets to pray, the valid sign of prayer is the love for each one of our brothers or sisters, whether in the same community or outside. When prayer is fulfilled with love, it will be accepted by God. Where there is no love, there is no prayer.

Friday 1.3.2019

Prayer and love in a faith community.
The prayer of a faithful community is not a rite or a celebration or an obligation to perform once a week, a month or a year. Prayer transforms all believers into one family so that everyone becomes known and loved by everyone. The group becomes one family.

This unity within the faith community does not mean exclusion of anyone.

The unity of the community stems from the unity of its faith and prayer. This unity can only be complete with love that is not confined to members of the community but to every human being. No one is excluded implying that it includes those who are different in their faith. Love is a power given by God that encompasses all the creation of God and cannot be limited to any form of collective or sectarian selfishness. When it becomes restricted and exclusive, faith and love disappear. True love has no limits.

Faith and prayer enable believers to love all people regardless of their differences.

Saturday 2.3.2019

The poor is “great” as a human being in the God-given dignity. The “mean person” in humanity is the one who sees himself or the others as stranger to God or to his fellow men. He is the one who turns a blind eye to the poor. The great person is the one who takes the hand of the poor and restores their dignity, providing them with all material and spiritual needs.

Along generations, there were apostles of the poor, men or women we call "saints". One such example is Saint Vincent of Paul (1581-1660) in France. Sisters of Saint Vincent are still present in our diocese, in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Ain Karem and Haifa, serving the poor, the abandoned children and the handicapped. Another person is Saint Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997), from Albania who began her mission caring for the poor in India. Then, her missionaries spread around the world including our diocese today in Jerusalem, Amman, Gaza and Nablus.

There are many other saints, apostles who served the poor.

The Catholic Church, at the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) defined itself as church for the poor, the deprived and the suffering.
Yet, there are still poor people in humanity and in faith communities. In any human society, “the poor” are a warning to every human being who considers himself a human being and to every believer in every religion. The poor are a warning that in human societies there is something wrong. Even in our prayers and in our presence before God, something is wrong because there is a poor person living next to us.

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