Christ is always born among the poor.
At Bethlehem Jesus was not born in a home, or a hospital, or a birthing room. He was born in a barn, a stable. His parents were poor, powerless and uninfluential. His first visitors were shepherds m people at the bottom of the social scale. In the first and greatest of his beatitudes, Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit. Theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Where is the Church growing fastest today? Where is Jesus being born anew? In the Third World, among the poorest of the poor. In Africa, Latin America and India, the Church is growing. Vocations are blooming. People are finding Christ at a breathtaking pace.
This is a lesson for the "Old Church" of the rich and powerful North Atlantic nations. Jesus reveals himself best to us through the poor and powerless of the world.
This is the lesson to be learned from our reading from Paul to the Corinthians today. "Not many of you are wise." Good though education is, it tends to make the intellectual too proud of his reasoning powers and waters down his faith. He becomes part of the "intelligentia," people educated beyond their intelligence.
Obviously education is very important. What happens is that people settle for a "little knowledge." But: "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Therefore, brother, drink deeply of the empyerean spring. There shallow drafts intoxicate the mind, while drinking deeply sobers us again.
"Not many of you are influential -- nor well born." This is certainly true of the majority of Catholicism's 700 million members. Christ is found mainly among those who are not in the centers of power and the geneaologies of the mighty. Christ can be found there, but not often.
"God chose those whom the world considers absurd to shame the wise. He singled out the weak of this world to shame the strong." We make heroes out of the muscular and the intimidating. God makes saints out of the weak and the poor. We lionize the mighty. Jesus turns to the lambs to exalt them. We put our trust in princes. God asks us to put our trust in love.
Why does Jesus ask us to look for him among the despised, the world's lowborn and those who count for nothing? "So that people can do no boasting before God." God has given us life in Jesus Christ. Jesus is our wisdom and our holiness and our salvation. No one else can save us. No human power or wisdom or new ideas can bring us salvation. Only the work and love of Jesus Christ. "Let him who would boast, boast in the Lord."
Every religious order, at its founding, began with service to the poor. As long as the order did so, it flourished and was a marvel to behold. When the religious order ceased to identify with the poor, it became stagnant. It lost its vitality and its membership. It became an aging anachronism to whom the young were no longer attracted. Reforms of religious orders, similarly, also began again with the poor.
This is one of the most basic axioms of the Church. "Christ is always born again among the poor."
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