The first reading for this Sunday is from the Book the Wisdom of Sirach. In some Bibles, it is called the Book of Ecclesiasticus (the Book of the Church), because it was used so extensively in giving instructions to converts to Christianity. It is a collection of Wisdom sayings, intended to give ethical guidance to youth.

The selection that we have for this week begins, “The LORD is a God of justice, who knows no favorites. Though not unduly partial toward the weak, yet He hears the cry of the oppressed.” Our responsorial psalm picks up that same theme, as we sing, “The Lord hears the cry of the poor.” This is a common message in both the Old and New Testaments and was a radical concept at that time.

It was thought by many that poverty was a punishment from God or was at least a sign that you were not in good favor with God. Wealth, on the other hand, was a sign that God was very pleased with you and was blessing you. Those who were well off were able to follow the purity laws more faithfully than the poor, and so many, like the Pharisees, believed that the poor were lost. They could not be saved.

God reveals Himself as one who hears the cry of the poor, and who is the defender of the poor, who cannot defend themselves against oppressors, and who have no one else to stand up for them. He proclaims that He will stand up for them. He will be their advocate. 

Pope Benedict XVI, a few years ago, defined the three essential works of the Church:

  1. To evangelize
  2. To worship God, and
  3. To serve the poor.

As God hears the cry of the poor, as Jesus proclaimed, “Blessed are the poor,” so the Church (that is you and me, not some institution somewhere) must do the same—we must hear the cry of the poor, bless the poor, and serve the poor.
— Fr. Mike Comer