Helper of the Poor – Br. David Vryhof

Br. David VryhofLuke 4:16-22

We remember today Margaret, Queen of Scotland.  This brief description of her is drawn from For All the Saints, a resource of the Anglican Church of Canada:

Margaret was an Anglo-Saxon princess who became the [wife] of King Malcolm III of Scotland in 1069.  She bore eight children and through her husband initiated civilizing reforms in the Scottish royal court, the Scottish Church, and the Scottish nation.  But Margaret is chiefly remembered for her efforts on behalf of Scotland’s poor.  She not only gave out large sums of money but also ensured that institutions already in place did indeed provide relief for the homeless, the hungry, and the orphaned.  In addition, Margaret supplied the funds which purchased freedom for those Anglo-Saxons who had been sold into slavery by their Norman conquerors.  Hence, to her title of Queen is added the still greater title for a Christian – “Helper of the Poor.”[i] [italics mine]

“Helper of the Poor.”  Would to God that every Christian on the planet could be known by that title.  To be a “helper of the poor” is to be one with the mission of Jesus who, according to his own testimony, was anointed by God “to bring good news to the poor… to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, [and] to let the oppressed go free…” (Lk 4:18).  It is to be one with the mission of God in the world, whose deep concern and compassion for the helpless is so much in evidence throughout our sacred scriptures.

To be a “helper of the poor” is to notice the needy and destitute among us and to respond with compassion.  It is not only to offer our assistance, but to protect their rights and to champion their cause.  It is to be conscious of them when we consider how we will use our resources and exercise our power — not only as individuals, but as members of Christ’s Body, the Church, and as citizens of this country and the world.

The great spiritual leader of India, Mahatma Gandhi, encouraged people to think of the poorest person they knew and to reflect upon how the action they were about to take would affect that person.  Today’s world is characterized by intolerable economic inequalities, both between nations and within nations.  18 million of our fellow humans die each year from poverty-related causes.  1.1 billion people live on less than $1 a day.  2.7 billion live on less than $2.  Gandhi’s concern for the poor can serve as an example to us today, as we work to achieve a more equal world.  He said, “There is enough for every man’s need, but not for every man’s greed.”[ii]

We live in a country ruled by the wealthy and the elite.  They fashion the laws that govern our land and determine whether or not the poor will have access to health care, adequate housing, a good education, justice in the courts, and a living wage.  I suspect it has always been so.  Which is why we who are educated and have a voice must speak up for those who are powerless to improve their own state: the homeless, the destitute, the sick, those who are the objects of discrimination and prejudice, and those in prison.  Like Queen Margaret, we must use our influence to champion their cause.

Would to God that each of us would, like Queen Margaret of Scotland, be known as “Helpers of the Poor.”  Is it true of you?  Could it be more so?

[i] Reynolds, Stephen (compiler); For All the Saints: Prayers and Readings for the Saints’ Days; (Toronto: Anglican Book Centre, 1994); p. 346.

[ii] Avery, John Scales; “Mahatma Gandhi, We Need Your Voice Today!”;; June 18, 2017.

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  1. The Rev. William Winston on November 16, 2020 at 09:38

    Thanks, David. In light of the last rallies and demonstrations by so many of America’s poor & under-educated white population as we enter the waning days of the Trump presidency, your powerful words and quotations speak directly to their desperation that has generated a new rise in violent racism as well as the defiant resistance to the three necessary actions to stem the spread of COVID-19. All of America’s poor need this nation’s focused attention, if we are to unite and more forward in healthy ways. As you point out, being helpers of the poor is one of the central responsibilities and obligations of the spiritual/religious population, leading the way for the rest of the population. Thanks for the unflinching challenge of your closing questions. Blessings.

  2. Diane on November 16, 2020 at 07:23

    A quote from Lord Acton – Power Corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. To this I add “Greed is insatiable”! My mission is to give generously – even when stretching myself a little. And, the funny thing is, even when I stretch myself – I don’t seem to run out of money at the end of the month. But, when I spend on myself, sometimes things get a little tight. Love these homilies. Thank you for sending them.

  3. Jeanne DeFazio on October 16, 2019 at 12:46

    Truly beautiful message. For years I ran homeless programs and the Lord blessed me so much for helping those who have nothing and nobody

  4. Gerry Malmo on October 16, 2019 at 10:09

    I would encourage everyone who reads you homilies to consider downloading and listening to them. I gain so much more from hearing your voice coupled with your tones and inflections. Furhter, thank you for a wonderful history lesson.

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