(Amos 8: 4,7)
The Bible ascribes those terrible words to Amos, but they sound a lot like Francis, our Holy Father, who has been a tireless advocate for the poor for his entire life; Our Holy Father Francis, who calls poverty “the flesh of the poor Jesus, in that child who is hungry, in the one who is sick, in those unjust social structures...the flesh of Jesus who suffers and in true poverty.” (Pope Francis, Meeting with Students, 7 July 2013)
He’s right, of course. If God loves anyone best, it is the poor, the least, the littlest and the ones forgotten by everyone else.
God could have chosen a great nation to build massive temples to him, but no, he chose an enslaved race whom the Egyptians treated harshly and afflicted.
He could have chosen the oldest, the brightest or the strongest of the sons of Jesse as King of Israel, but no, he chose the runt of the litter, the shepherd boy David.
As we sing every evening, God chooses the poor, the slave, the blind and the oppressed. Indeed, as we sang just a few minutes ago, God lifts up the poor and seats them with princes.
But who are the poor? And what makes them blessed? They are the ones who have had everything unessential taken away from them, stripped and humiliated like Christ upon the cross. They are for us an icon of the face of Jesus, and in loving them we are loving the Lord, as in turning away from them, we turn from his face.
How Blessed are the poor, for they, in their very ordinariness “always have room to take in the mystery,” In the words of Pope Francis, “...for ordinary people the mystery enters through the heart. In the homes of the poor, God always finds a place.” (Pope Francis, Meeting with the Bishops of Brazil, 28 July 2013)
Indeed, this is how your son or your brother has discerned a vocation to the Priesthood. Because you, and all those who have nurtured him in holiness through the years, have created a home poor enough in the distractions of the world, to let him hear the still, quiet voice of God, whispering in his heart and calling his name.
Every mother or father is called to be poor, called to give up riches in order to enrich their child, called to give up sleep in order to lull the crying baby back to slumber, called to give up selfishness in order to teach them love.
That is the vocation of the Sacrament of Marriage, a vocation to give up the things of this world, in order to nurture the life of a little child, to build through sacrifice “a community of life and love” (Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, no. 48), which becomes “the primary and most excellent seed-bed of vocations to a life of consecration to the Kingdom of God” (Pope John Paul II, Familaris Consortio, no. 53). For make no mistake about it, while the vocations of these men may mature and blossom in this holy house, their vocations were born in your house.
Which is why I wonder, as I gaze out at you today, whether in this house where we seek to form men worthy to be called “father” whether we take seriously enough the examples provided to them by their own mothers and fathers over these past twenty or thirty years.
For if, God willing, your son someday raises a chalice from this Altar in participation with the perfect sacrifice offered by Christ upon the altar of the cross, it will be because he first learned how to hold a sippy cup at your table, patiently taught not to spill the milk by the ones who fed him and clothed him and protected him as a child.
If, God willing, your son one day preaches the Truth, the word of salvation from this pulpit, a word which will rouse them, console them, and give them hope, it will be, in no small part because of the one who taught him his first words and first gave him the courage to speak the truth.
If someday, God willing, your son blesses on behalf of Christ and his Church with the blessing that only a Priest can give, it will be because of those who first taught him to make the sign of the cross from forehead to breast and from left shoulder to right.
If he is to offer the prayers of untold thousands, it will be because of the ones who first taught him to kneel and to pray in the words Jesus gave us and the words which were passed on to you by your mothers and fathers so many years ago.
If he will offer sacrifice it will be because you first taught him the meaning of the word by your lives.
And so on behalf of Christ and his Church I thank you, the families of these good and holy man for spending some hours with us in this holy house where God works miracles in their hearts and calls them to incredible things. Thank you for your example and for your prayers; for what you have done and for what you continue to be.
Pray for us all, that we may be worthy of your example and the faith which you have passed down to us, and pray that God might give us the grace to continue to die to ourselves and to be conformed to Christ Jesus in all our poverty, in all our littleness and with the strength of his saving grace.