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Friday, 13 April 2018


The case about the poor is undeniably one agonising problem in the contemporary society. Mark emphasizes the material poverty and strongly addresses detachment from inordinate desire for material things and power. There are strong reasons for the assistance given to the poor. Saint Mark the evangelist derived his care for the poor from the purpose of Jesus’ whole life who came to serve humanity and the supreme expression of this service is seen in his self-giving on the cross, “For the Son of man has come not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45). The periscope in the gospel of (Mark 10:17-22) stresses the Christian mandate for the care of the poor and charity which forms the basis of Christian morality. This care of poor will be elaborately addressed in this paper and we shall delve into Jesus’ intention for the care of the poor. This will be dealt with and augmented with available resources support his notion.

The statement “go, sell what you have, and give to the poor” in the Gospel of "Mark paves way for theology of including the poor in our lives, of sharing what we have and being in solidarity with poor as evident in the Marcan gospel where generous attitude to the poor as co-inheritors of God’s kingdom predominates. This same story is found in (Mtt 19, Lk 12:13-21). The care for the poor is grown out of charity and it showcases the efforts of acting according to the will of God among Christian today. This is the ultimate out-working of the Marcan motif of reward for those who have lived according to the will of God and detachment from worldly things as the easiest way to enter heaven.

The attitude of helping the poor has ever been the command of God. God has ever commanded his people of old to be charitable and love themselves especially the needy among the people of Israel: “Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, here I am (Is 58:7-14)”.
The practical example reflected in the story of our father Abraham, when he welcomes the men unknowingly that they were angels. (Gen 18). So, the contra reaction of the rich young man towards the Jesus’ statement “go, sell what you have, and give to the poor” showcases that he has not been keeping this Old Testament commandment which Jesus noticed that he was lacking charity (Mk 10:21).

An important theme that Mark has developed in the Gospel is that of service and this is understood in Jesus Christ who is seen as a man for others. The purpose of Jesus’ whole life is to serve humanity and the supreme expression of this service reached its peak on his self-giving on the cross. For the Son of man has come not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Feeding the hungry,  giving drink to the thirsty, sheltering the stranger, clothing the  naked , visit to the  sick,  and visiting the prisoner  as it is listed in (Mtt 25:35-36) are grown out of Christian charity. The acts here enumerated indicate more than a mere giving food or money. Of course, charity is done out of:  sacrifice of time, strength, sympathy, caring love, faith etc., and clearly demonstrate the fullness of the Christian life. The aforementioned Christian charitable exercises spring from love and mercy; because they expressed to human beings the conformity of God. That means Christian life is a call to serve God in other persons. In this passage of the Gospel the care of the poor involves charity which becomes the description of the discipleship.

Charity is friendship with God. Jesus says, “You are my friends if you do what I command you” That is, to love God and human person is the most important of all virtues. “He is not save however, who, though he is part of the body the Church, does not persevere in charity”. See what love of the father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are (1 Jn 3:1). Charity makes us friends of God and is the principal source of merits. It is the form of all virtues, that is, the vital principal of everything. All things done to the poor have eternal value. He knows that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose (Rom 8:28) charity alone never ends.
The Jesus’ statement spoilt the rich young man’s mind, that is, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” is an invitation to the greatest good (Mark 10:21). It is the echo from God who is the origin and goal of man’s life. Christian vocation is to be good and charitable towards others. And so, it puts challenge on the Christians for their vocation to the world of charity. The Christians’ vocation is a call to discipleship which can be carried out in term of the care of the poor.

Christian discipleship is concerned with Christian moral life. The rich young man does not recognise this that is why he thought that he is fit for the kingdom of God only by keeping the whole commandment. Therefore, the attitude of the young man questions his moral life. As Disciples of Christ, Christian morality implies an invitation to follow Christ and to look at his moral life as our guiding principles. As such, Jesus’ life becomes our moral norms. Responding to Jesus’ call “Come follow me”, implies therefore a moral task. Discipleship is to love tenderly. To love tenderly implies entering into the world of the other person. “Whatever you did to the least one of these, you did it to me.” in this sense, it is in and through the other person that we encounter God and our relationship with others is meant to lead us to God.
The rich young man wants to do good in order to possess eternal life. In reply to the rich young man’s enquiry, Jesus directed his attention to the observance of the commandments to which he replied that he has kept them all but he cannot share his wealth with the poor. Here, having many possessions is an insurmountable obstacle to the possession of God’s kingdom. To be ‘for’ Jesus means to be for the powerless, needy and the maginalised. This implies that in the Christian moral life, there is always an accompanying action to be performed, that is charity.  However, the Christian moral life is not limited to the observance of the laws. We need to transcend the mere observation of laws. This explains why Jesus insists that our virtue must go deeper than that of the Pharisees and Scribes. Therefore, this is reiterated by Saint Paul: “If I have not charity I am nothing. Whatever my privilege, service, or even virtue, if I have not charity, I gain nothing. Charity is superior to all the virtues”. It is the first of the theological virtues: so faith, hope, charity abide, these three. But the greatest of these is charity.

In this way it is able to cater for the people and the poor, both individually and as a whole.  In today’s society, a positive attitude towards the poor would be meaningful only in the context of the provision of basic human needs in matters such as housing, education, food, clothing, and shelter for destitute, leadership, credit unions, cooperative and medical care. By these the poor are liberated from their struggles and sufferings but more importantly from their alienation, neglect and discrimination. It is in this view that Mark advocates for a holistic development whereby about religious, cultural, the socio-economic and political dimensions of human life as a whole.
Caring for the poor is very important to our Lord Jesus Christ in the gospel of St. Mark. The refusal to do this breaks the link of kingdom of God with human person. The fact is that there are inequalities in the society and this brings about differences between the very rich and the very poor. The practical of what is happening in our society today is portrayed by the rich young man: he cannot share his wealth with the poor. This is why the rich people live in affluence while the poor live in abject poverty.
The easiest solution is to work alongside with the poor to attain an economic, social, political development in accordance with their aspirations. Development implies a transition from a less human situation to a more human situation. Consider the situation where people sleep under the bridge or people going to party to pick waste food.  These are the situations that charity comes to intervene instead for the rich to neglect them that they too have legs and hands to earn their living. And also, it is immoral and godless to act like the rich young man.

In the foregoing, it is clear that the need to care, provide and protect the poor is deeply rooted in Marcan Gospel. The care of the poor is the love to follow Christ and that shall be particularly observed, and bountifully rewarded, by Christ at the great day. The rich young man desires eternal life and he keeps the commandments. But, the only and important thing he was lacking was true self-denial, renouncing the sin of covetousness, and renouncing inordinate love of worldly wealth which Jesus sees as a hindrance to him. Therefore, it is a big challenge for Christians that, we ought, upon God's call to build a readiness of mind, as to be willing to part with all for God's sake which is dear unto us in this world.

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DANIEL J. HARRINGTON S.J., Sacra Pagina: The Gospel of St. Mark, The Liturgical Press, USA, 1991.

GORDON S. WAKEFIELD ED., A Dictionary of Christian Spirituality, SCM Press Ltd, London, 1984.

John Paul II – VERITATIS SPLENDOR Addressed To All The Bishops Of The Catholic Church Regarding Fundamental Questions Of The Church's Moral Teaching (August 6, 1993).

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PAUL J. GLENN, A Tour of the Summa of St. Thomas Aquinas, Theological Publications, India, 2004.

THOMAS PAZHAYAMPALLIL, S.D.B, Pastoral Guide Vol.1: Fundamental Moral Theology and Virtues, Kristu Jyoti Publication, India, 2004.

                                  By: 'Bisi-Oluwole

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