The expression “a preferential option for the poor” or “option for the poor and vulnerable” is a basic tenet of Catholic Social Teaching, a body of papal encyclicals from the late 19th century up through today. It consists of seven basic themes of which the US Bishops have nice introduction here. One of those themes is “Option for the Poor and Vulnerable.” This theme says that a basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring. In a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor, our tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgment (Mt 25:31-46) and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first. Many times we read the Matthean passage and feel the call to individual acts of compassion and justice, but the US Bishops also direct our attention to more systemic issues of economic justice and domestic poverty. Lots of links and lots to consider! And you might be asking “what does this have to do with Psalm 8?”
You might know that Pope Francis daily celebrates Mass at the chapel where he lives, Santa Marta. He reflections on the daily readings are available on the Vatican News website’s page, Word of the Day. As an ever work-in-progress homilist, I greatly appreciate his insights and the clarity (and brevity) of his homily. From Pope Francis:
Vigilance! But, three criteria, eh! Do not confuse the truth. Jesus fights the devil: first criterion. Second criterion: the one who is not with Jesus is against Jesus. There is no middle ground. Third criterion: vigilance over our heart because the devil is clever. He is never cast out forever! That will happen only on the last day.” (Homily, Santa Marta, 11 October 2013)
The synoptic gospels (Mark, Mathew and Luke) recount the story of Jesus being accused of working for the powers of darkness: ““By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he drives out demons.” I can remember as a young person being frightened to know the devil was so familiar to the world that he/she had a name: Beelzebul. One of my vivid memories was as child hearing a fiery sermon by a preacher at the Pine Street Pentecostal Church. It was a Sunday night and we were outside listening. Again and again the preacher hoisted up and dropped upon the congregation the name of Beelzebul, the prince of darkness who leered, lingered, and lured the unwary soul onto perdition’s ways.