Answer call to reach out to the poor, disenfranchised • September 21, 2020

Feast of St. Vincent de Paul 1 Cor 1:26-31,  Mt 9:35-38

As we celebrate the diocesan bicentennial this weekend and commemorate the presence of the Church in the Western Vicariate, we celebrate the Feast of St. Vincent de Paul in place of the usual Sunday readings.

We remember a saint who was dedicated to the poor, the young and old, who speaks to us through his life about the presence of God to the least of God’s people, and who is the patron of our diocese.

The Gospel for this feast tells us this about Jesus: “At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.” I am struck by how this passage also reflects the life of St. Vincent de Paul.

In the second reading for the Mass of the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, which we would normally be hearing this weekend, St. Paul tells us that Jesus did not hold his divinity to himself, he shared it with us. In the reading from First Corinthians for the feast of St. Vincent, St. Paul tells us to consider our calling.

We may not be wise, wealthy, strong or of high position as defined by the world, but we can be all of them in Christ. As Catholic Christians, regardless of our station in life, we are called to follow the example of Christ, to reach out to the poor and disenfranchised.

The idea of service to the disenfranchised goes back to the Jewish law. Exodus 22:22-23 states: “You shall not abuse any widow or orphan. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry.”

Deuteronomy 10:19 commands us to “love the stranger for you were once strangers in the land of Egypt.” Leviticus 19:34 tells us “the alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you, you shall love the alien as yourself.”

Leviticus 25:35 also tells us that when someone among us becomes poor we are to sustain them. Jesus spoke of this and demonstrated it in his treatment of the outcasts of society. We are all familiar with Matthew 25:31-46 in which Jesus tells us whatever we do for the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned, we are doing for God.

From the 17th century until today, the legacy of St. Vincent continues through the work of the St. Vincent DePaul Society, the Daughters of Charity and others who serve the poor and the disenfranchised. Under the patronage of St. Vincent, our diocese has spread the Gospel across Virginia for 200 years. We show our dedication to following the example of Jesus in numerous outreach programs.

Even though Catholics made up only 12% of Virginia’s population in 2019, we are ever present in caring for the sick, educating children, servicing to the poor, assisting refugees and providing health care, food, fuel and other services to those in need of our love and care.

We answer the call of Jesus in our lives and in our diocese. We have been enabled by Jesus to continue in service to the people that Jesus sends our way and puts in our lives. We continue to spread the Gospel throughout the diocese, from the Eastern Shore to the Cumberland Gap, so the presence of God can continue to increase.

Deacon Christopher Colville serves at Church of the Redeemer, Mechanicsville.

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