The Preferential Option for the Poor in Novo Millennio

In Novo Millennio Ineunte the preferential option for the poor is essential to the witness of love and the building of a spirituality of communion. It is not a function of a political agenda nor a result of economic-political analysis in terms of class conflict. He says it is “a page of Christology which sheds a ray of light on the mystery of Christ.” §49 It is motivated by the contemplation of the face of Christ — “If we have truly started out anew from the contemplation of Christ, we must learn to see him especially in the faces of those with whom he himself wished to be identified: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me” (Mt 25:35-37)

John Paul also sees the dedication to love in the decisive passage from Gaudium et spes: no one can be excluded from our love, since “through his Incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every person”.

The preferential option for the poor should weigh heavily on Christians. He asks, “How can it be that even today there are still people dying of hunger? Condemned to illiteracy? Lacking the most basic medical care? Without a roof over their heads?” He includes the commitment to the unborn, indeed, respect for the life of every human being, from conception until natural death. John Paul II acknowledges that the respect for life may put the Church in an unpopular light.  And he extends into newer patterns where human persons are abandoned or in need and crisis especially those “threatened by despair at the lack of meaning in their lives, by drug addiction, by fear of abandonment in old age or sickness, by marginalization or social discrimination.” Larger global issues such as ecological crisis, war and peace, and suppression of human rights world wide are matters for Christian engagement in charity.

The witness of love is important for the new evangelization because the words are too easily lost or submerged in the noise — “without this form of evangelization through charity  .  .  .  the proclamation of the Gospel, which is itself the prime form of charity, risks being misunderstood or submerged by the ocean of words which daily engulfs us in today’s society of mass communications. The charity of works ensures an unmistakable efficacy to the charity of words.” 

These words set the tone for the closing thoughts of the Letter: the proclamation of the Gospel is itself the prime form of charity.

This  evangelization is the primary posture of the Church in the modern world. The social doctrine of the Church, if properly or coherently articulated as the reason for social action, empowers that charity to “become [a] service to culture, politics, the economy and the family” because “the fundamental principles upon which depend the destiny of human beings and the future of civilization will be everywhere respected.”



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