Roxane Salonen ponders how the term “the poor” can apply to more than just the materially poor.
Whoever mocks the poor reviles their Maker. (Proverbs 17:5)
The verse popped up on Day 249 of Ascension's The Bible in a Year podcast with Fr. Mike Schmitz, who paused momentarily on the word "poor."
"Who are the poor?" he asked, answering that the poor can be anyone our world sees as "less than." Essentially, the poor are "anyone without power."
His words came, in that moment, as a soothing balm. We often seem to approach such adjectives narrowly, associating "poor" strictly with monetary deficiency.
But so many in this world, though they may have all the material provisions they need, are destitute in spirit. Several of my own loved ones come to mind.
And so I was soothed, for in the next breath, we read that "whoever rejoices in their misfortune will not go unpunished."
I needed to know that God would make things right. Just hours before, I had watched someone I love being slighted by someone with power -- and I could do nothing about it. The only solace I had in that moment was the thought that this person of power was not more powerful than God, and that, no matter how much the use of that power had hurt my dear one, God's justice would come into play someday.
It can be hard to hold onto that, and be assured that God will see to it that things come out right in the end. It can be hard to not become bitter at such injustice. It can be hard to resist being pulled into the hurt and respond with feelings and thoughts that dance around the edges of sin in turn.
But that is why God offers these little moments of perspective -- to draw us away from those temptations, encouraging us to place our trust back in Him.
During the conversation that had happened preceding all of this, I had to dig deep to provide necessary consolation, assuring the one harmed that God loves them most of all, because he is especially close to the brokenhearted.
I didn't realize until hearing from Proverbs that I needed the reminder myself. God heard the cry of my own heart and delivered; not only in the Proverbs verse, but in the prayer of Judith that came in the same daily portion, from Chapter 9:
Your strength is not in numbers, nor does your might depend upon the powerful. You are God of the lowly, helper of those of little account, supporter of the weak, protector of those in despair, savior of those without hope.
Beautiful words to mend my own weary soul.
And then, in verse 12, Judith gives it everything she has:
Please, please, God of my father, God of the heritage of Israel, Master of heaven and earth, Creator of the waters, King of all you have created, hear my prayer!
With Judith, I lament for those in my fold who have been the brunt of a power play not of God. But I am also convicted, with her, in God's goodness and mercy. And with all the hope I can muster, I resolve to trust He will bend down and restore the brokenness I have witnessed.
Lord, in this moment, I am the poor, along with those I love. Let me remember that your power alone is sufficient to restore the souls of the brokenhearted, and that the unfair power plays will be righted by you. And Lord, help me, through this hurt, see the times when I have used my own power unfairly. Reveal my own weaknesses and expose my sin so that I might be purified, and renewed in your love.
Like Judith, I cry:
Make every nation and every tribe know clearly that you are God, the God of all power and might, and that there is no other who shields the people of Israel but you alone.
Thank you, Lord, for reminding me that sometimes, I and my loved ones are the poor, but that you have come to bring us life, that we might bring life to others. Amen.
When have you felt powerless but been heartened by God’s promises?
Copyright 2021 Roxane Salonen
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About the Author
Roxane B. Salonen, a wife and mother of five from Fargo, North Dakota, is an award-winning children’s author and freelance writer, Catholic radio host and speaker, and co-author of the forthcoming 'What Would Monica Do?' (Ascension Press, Summer 2022). Roxane also writes a regular diocesan column, “Sidewalk Stories,” about her encounters at her state’s only abortion facility. Her work can be found at RoxaneSalonen.com