Sir 35:12-14, 16-18
2 Tm 4:6-8, 16-18
The story in the Gospel passage for today proves the point in the first reading, that “the prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds.”
But the lesson is not just about the efficacy of prayer. It’s about God’s love for the smallest, the outcast, the “poor” – which means more than the materially deprived, but more fundamentally about those who have no help but God. “The Lord hears the cry of the poor” – of those who cry to him because they don’t have access to any of the power structures of this world which should protect them but don’t.
God hears the “poor” because it belongs to his very nature to do so. He is, as the first reading proclaims, “a God of justice.” “Justice” is a powerful theme in Scripture, and refers to the intervention of God to rescue the helpless. The fundamental act of justice, of intervention, in the Old Testament is the Exodus, foreshadowing the supreme act of justice in Jesus Christ, who rescues us from the kingdom of death and hell by his own death and resurrection.
All of this points, of course, to God’s concern for the poorest of the poor, and the most helpless of all, the children still in the womb. They have no access to the power structures of this world, who have officially deprived them of their rights of personhood. No group of human beings is more victimized, or in greater numbers, than children in the first nine months after conception.
The God of justice requires his people to “do justice,” that is, to “hear the cry of the oppressed” as he does. The unborn child is, indeed, “the orphan,” often abandoned by mother and father who resort to abortion. The mother of the child is, for all practical purposes, facing the plight of the “widow” in Scripture, because half of those who have abortions say that they can’t go forward due to lack of support from the father of the child.
We are called to intervene, to reach those tempted to abort and strengthen them to do what is right, and to speak and take action to restore protection to the unborn, for the Lord hears the cry of the poor.