(Pg. 586-591) When a Christian pronounces the words poor, poverty, indigence, he naturally recalls to mind Him Whose first blessing on the mountain was for the poor in spirit. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The Christian remembers that He practiced poverty, that He chose the stable in place of the palace, the crib in place of the throne, the swaddling clothes of Bethlehem rather than the purple of the kings of the earth. We go in spirit with Him to Egypt, to Nazareth, to the shores of the Jordan, the mountains of Judea, or the streets of Jerusalem. Everywhere we see Him amongst the poor, the lowly of the world, and He promises to give the brightest thrones of His heavenly kingdom to those who have left all things to follow Him.
Turn now your hearts and your minds to the altar, to the Communion table, to the tabernacle. Remember the Mass, the Communion, the Real Presence in your church. Does He not continue amongst us the teachings and examples of His visible life amongst men eighteen hundred years ago?
On the mountain, near the Sea of Galilee, He had said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” He was on that day visibly present amongst the fishermen and other hard-working men of Galilee, but in the tabernacle He has not even retained a human form. When He hung on the cross of Calvary, the earth which shook with violence, the rocks which were split asunder, and the sun which was darkened, testified to His dignity; when He instituted the Holy Sacrament, the room of the Last Supper was large, well furnished, and decorated; but in our days Our Lord in the Eucharist seems unconcerned about exterior appearances. If you have a magnificent church erected to His honor, if the altar and the furniture thereof are splendid, undoubtedly He will be pleased, He will reward the giver. These things, however, are not essential, and as I said, He seems unconcerned about exterior display. He is willing to reside in a poor tabernacle; if the priest has none but the plainest vestments or sacred vessels to use at Mass, our blessed God will not fail on that account to appear on the altar as our victim. He does not wish for rich garments on those who receive Him. There is one thing that He desires, that He will have – He will be on our altars as one of the poor, accessible to the poor, having acquired a right to say to men: “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” See, then, that you despise them not; you should rather honor and love them, for the Son of God has espoused the state of poverty: for nearly nineteen hundred years He has been the friend and companion of the poor in the Holy Eucharist.
All that has been said of Our Lord as the friend of the poor in the Eucharist is not enough. He is more than their friend there: He is their almoner, their benefactor, their all. Have you not many times visited a church during the Forty Hours’ Adoration or a Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament? Did you ever see that the poor were refused permission to kneel before the hidden Majesty, to offer their prayers to Him? Every morning the golden door of the tabernacle is opened by the priest, and the Bread of Angels is distributed to the people. Who are they who communicate? Who are they who become so intimately united to the Son of God? Are they only the rich, the wise, the learned? Oh, no! The poor, the humble, the lowly ones of the world, are the more numerous partakers of the Holy Eucharist. Is it for the rich alone that Holy Mass is offered? Again, no! And the poor know it, and they love to come to Mass and receive innumerable blessings through the Victim who suffered on Calvary.
The world does not see the graces bestowed upon the poor through the Holy Sacrament of the Altar. It sees not how they are purified from their sins, how intimately they are united to their God; how ardently their heart is inflamed with love, how greatly they are comforted in their trials, nay, to the extent of preferring poverty and sufferings to riches and pleasures.
Our Lord in the Eucharist is invoked by the Church as the Father of the poor, and His care of His loved ones extends through time and eternity. When Our Lord was informed that Lazarus, His friend, was sick, He came a long distance to raise him to life; when the poor of this world, I mean the faithful ones, are on their bed of death, the Good Shepherd will not abandon them. The apostles were commanded to distribute the miraculous loaves and fishes on the mountain to the poor who had followed Our Lord; but with us the priest must go across mountains and valleys, he must go at the peril of his own life, to take the Bread of Life to the suffering, poor friend of Jesus Christ. Blessed are they, blessed are those poor, who die in the Lord. They have ceased to live on earth, but they have died in the arms of Him Who was their friend upon earth, Who gave them grace to walk in His steps, and they will now receive of Him a participation in His eternal glory.
Christians, dear brethren, in the presence of the poor who represent Jesus Christ, in memory of your Saviour Who became poor through love of us, and Who remaineth amongst us the Friend and Benefactor of the poor, be you also the friends and benefactors of the poor. When you are in the presence of the poor, remember that their condition is more elevated than yours, for Our Lord would be and remains as one of them.
But what shall we do for the poor? First of all, in their presence you must forget your wealth, your learning, your high position. It is the will of God that you should be their servants. You must help them with your money. “But that which remaineth, give alms.” If they are hungry, you must give them to eat; if they are thirsty, you must give them to drink; if they are stranger, you must harbor them; if they are naked, you must cover them; if they are sick, and in prison, you must visit them. You should be as God himself is – the Father of the orphan, the defender of the oppressed. Of your charity you should instruct the ignorant, endeavor to reclaim the sinner, and obtain rest for the souls in purgatory. The charity of Jesus Christ urgeth us on; and he has not the spirit of Christ who believes in the Holy Eucharist and does not love the poor.
In order to perform works of charity it is not enough to know that they are necessary: we must also have strength to perform them. Here I must again invite you to come to Our Lord in the Holy Sacrament, Who after giving you light concerning works of charity will enable you to perform them, for He is our light and strength. In reading His life in the Gospel we noticed that He communicated His heavenly charity to all who came in contact with Him. His apostles left all things that were dear to them, in order to become the servants of men, employing their whole life for the sole end of saving immortal souls. His holy Mother Mary received from His such an admirable participation of charity, that for the love of souls she consents to sacrifice His life – the life of her only Son! Zacheus receives Jesus Christ in his house and at once gives to the poor the half of all his substance. At the present time we do not see the adorable features of Our Lord Jesus Christ, neither do we hear the sound of His voice; however, at the foot of the altar, and there alone, we shall find grace and strength to perform works of charity towards the poor. Behold in spirit the first disciples of Our Lord living in Jerusalem after His ascension into heaven. It is said of them that they have had but one heart and one mind; that there were no poor amongst them; that they sold their property, and offered the proceeds to the apostles, who divided the money amongst the needy, according to the condition. Nay, they had deacons to serve at the tables and to visit the sick; there were also amongst them saintly widows appointed to visit and mister to the wants of the persons of their sex. Hence it may justly be said of the early Christians, that their charity ran above measure. Whence came that superhuman charity? Ah! It had its source in the Holy Eucharist which they received every day. Had it not been for this Sacred Food the sight of Calvary itself and the remembrance of the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ could not have induced them to part with their property in order to help the poor. Those amongst you who live in cities can see very many large buildings surmounted with a cross. These are the asylums erected by Catholic charity, for the orphans, the aged poor, the insane, the deaf and dumb, the unfortunate of all kinds. In these asylums are to be found dear devoted friends of the poor, who make it a duty and find a delight in drying the tears, in dressing the wounds, in soothing and enlightening the distressed souls, of the inmates. There is no office, however menial or repulsive, that they are not willing to fulfil. Ask them the cause, and they will tell you that the afflicted represent Our Lord Jesus, and they desire to walk in His steps, Who gives them frequently His adorable Sacrament, in which Sacred Food they find grace to suffer everything, and, if necessary, to die for the poor.
This is, without exception, an effect of Communion. There were many saints who could not pronounce the word poor without shedding tears, because it reminded them of Jesus Christ, the Brother and Father of the poor. Come, therefore, frequently to your church to receive the Body and Blood, the soul and divinity, of Our Lord Jesus Christ. When He resides in the tabernacle of your soul, imagine that you hear Him Saying to you: “Take heed that you despise not My poor. For them I came down from heaven: I have enriched their souls as well as your own with the abundance of My graces. For them I have prepared a great reward in heaven, and on earth they are My chosen brethren and representatives. Whatever you do to them, I will consider it as done to Me. I wish you to give them your time, to give them your affection, and to show it to them by kinds words and actions. Visit them in their sickness; do not fear to spend the night near the bed of the dying man, to dress his wounds with your own hands, to help in giving him decent burial. Remember that your own soul was once in a more deplorable condition than the bodies of the lepers, and that I forgave you your sins, and restored to your soul its former beauty.”
There are in this world, my brethren, trial and affliction of all kinds. But of all the poor of this world there is none who deserves so much compassion as the sinner. The sinner has lost his peace of conscience, he has lost the friendship of God, he has lost his right to heaven.
Will you not do what you can to save the sinner? See how much is done by missionaries in our days for the conversion of the Indians, of the Africans, of the pagan of all countries. See how many penances are performed, how may prayers are said, how many tears are shed, for the conversion of sinners. Let us, at least by our prayers, do our share towards this work; and if any one of you feels a desire to spend his life, to consecrate himself to God for the conversion of sinners, let him not reject the thought, but rather let him say: “Behold I am here, O My God! What wilt Thou have me do?”
(pg. 769-770) Amongst the visible creatures of God, man alone is endowed with reason. If the grass of the fields, the trees of the forests, the stars of heaven, the animals, had a will and intelligence as we have, they would all praise and love their Creator; but they were made for the use of man, and we ought to glorify God both for them and for ourselves. And as every moment of our existence should be spent for the glory of God, because each of those moments is a gift of His, so every creature which we use ought to be used according to the end for which God created it; because those creatures belong to God, and not to ourselves. “Render to God the things that are God’s.” Almighty God imprinted in the heart of Adam and of his children a deep sense of their obligation to love Him, to pray to Him, and to honor Him even exteriorly, and to love our neighbor, and to abstain from doing to others what we should not like others to do to us.
The greater is our devotion to God, and our charity to our neighbor, the nearer we resemble our God, and the more perfect we are in His sight. As a father delights in his children when they honor him and imitate his examples, so Almighty God loveth those who love Him and who endeavor to imitate His sanctity, His goodness, and His other infinite perfections; but God is a spirit Whom we cannot see, and it was not easy for man after his fall to know the divine perfections of his Creator. Therefore the Creator Himself came down and became man, and lived amongst men, so as to manifest amongst men the virtues and perfections of the Deity. And now since Our Lord Jesus Christ came into this world we must look up to Him as to the model we should copy. “I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you do also (St. John xiii. 15).