In fact, if there is to be any partiality to be shown, it should be shown to the poor whom God chooses to be the people through whom the kingdom of God is passed on to the rest of humanity. Today we call this “a preferential option for the poor”, a corner stone of Catholic Social Teaching.
Throughout the Gospels we see Jesus doing the same. Jesus not only attracted but invited and reached out to the poor, the sick, the sinner and the social outcast. His message of God’s deep and profound love for all of us was most strikingly demonstrated in his care and concern for those who were marginalized by his society. He continually reached out to and raised up the “the least ones” of his society.
Often enough they were people who others found a bit uncomfortable to be around...they were not the ones given seats of honor at banquets or at synagogues, they were the ones that most people would cross to the other side of the street in order to avoid contact with them.
In the ancient world very often sickness was tethered to sin; it was thought to be a punishment from God. Remember when Jesus and a group of followers encountered the man born blind and they asked Jesus: who sinned, this man or this parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, “Neither, this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” (John 9: 1-3).
So, the man we encounter in today’s Gospel was most likely thought to be a sinner by some and yet Jesus immediately responds to the request to heal him -- no questions about who he is or what his back- ground was. Jesus responds with compassion and heals him and thus restores him to bodily wholeness and restores him to his community, for no one could any longer claim his illness as a sign of his sinfulness.
It’s completely understandable that we all want our lives to be prosperous and neat and tidy and full of agreeable people, but what do we do when “other things happen” and “other folks” show up—the same kinds of marginal situations and people Jesus himself loved and welcomed? In the midst of so much division, hurt and anger in our world, our country and in our church, how is the Holy Spirit calling me to respond to “the other”?
I think these readings today beg the question: how do I show my preferential option for the poor? Who do I seat at the head of my table?
We need to ask ourselves: on what realities or qualities do I judge the value of other people...by their clothes, their occupation, by where they live, their politics, by who they love, how attractive they are, by their physical abilities, their gender, or where they were born, by the color of their skin, by their immigration status...?
Or, filled with the Holy Spirit are we able to see them as they truly are, based on the reality of their identity as children of God, our sisters, our brothers, the beloved of God?