In a torrent, not a trickle

We should strive to keep our hearts open to the sufferings and wretchedness of other people, and pray continually that God may grant us that spirit of compassion which is truly the spirit of God. ~ St Vincent de Paul

What is a trickle? It is a dribble; a drip-drip-drip; a percolation: it is the thinnest of slender threads of liquid. It can be barely perceptible; invariably inadequate. Parched land or a dehydrated body desperately need more than a little drizzle of water; they need a stream, a gush, a downpour. And people living in the desperation and grimness of poverty need more than the scraps from a banquet referred to in Sunday's Gospel account of Lazarus and the rich man. (Luke 16: 19-31)

But the 'trickle-down' theory is what our government favours: the idea that poor people experience positive effects when rich people get richer and spend more money. It likes to assume that wealthy people will not behave like the rich man, unwilling to share even a few scraps or leftovers with the beggar at his gate. And it also likes to assume that the trickle will not only be steady, and constant, but that it will suffice. But it won't, as those of us working in social action and outreach, in over-stretched foodbanks and exhausted advice centres know only too well. 

I'm currently working with a parish whose priest has shared a copy of his homily on Sunday's Gospel, and Catholic Social Teaching's 'Preferential Option for the Poor'. Here's an extract:

God the creator of the world, God the giver and lover of life, wants us to live life to the full. There’s enough love in the world, there’s enough resources in the world if we use them responsibly, there’s enough space in the world for every single person to live, to love, and to flourish.

And so the upshot of this - and really the super-good news is that we have the fantastic privilege of doing something about that, we have the amazing opportunity of inviting others to share in the banquet that we may be lucky enough to enjoy...

'Option for the Poor’ is about us becoming aware of those who stand at our gate, of those for whom its opening might make all the difference... Where does God want to partner with us in sharing some of God's abundance and life with others? Where is God calling us to open the gate to someone who is standing outside? Where is God inviting us not only to live life to the full, but to enable others to also share that same fullness of life?

Today we celebrate the feast of St Vincent de Paul, whose life was poured out in love and service of the poor, and those who live, barely noticed, outside the gates to plenty: a love poured out in a torrent, not a trickle, in imitation of the abundant, life-giving love of God. I'm sure he is praying for all those whose lives are spent at the tail-end of the trickle, and for all those who seek to serve them. May he pray for and inspire all of us, that we may not only become aware of those at our gates, but open those gates to them too, in order to share whatever banquets of blessings we enjoy...