20 – The poor are the flesh of Christ; and poverty is a theological category

Love for the poor is not a recent novelty born in the Church, although some try to present it as such. It was the Divine Redeemer himself who gave the example and left this remarkable law of charity, bringing his followers to see in those who suffer the divine image of Jesus himself, who inspired them to offer assistance.

However, the divine call to conversion was directed to all, rich or poor, and the kind of poverty that deserved the title of beatitude was that of the spirit: detachment from the things of this world and humility. Consequently, considering some tendential visualizations, we might ask: are there poor who are rich in spirit and rich who are detached from their goods? Is the ‘option for the poor’ exclusive and excluding?

If the idea of the ‘flesh of Christ’ has a relationship with the Mystical Body, is the poverty of the peripheries what makes a person part of this Body? The Magisterium teaches us what the Mystical Body of Christ is, and who its true members are.


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Teachings of the Magisterium

Enter the various parts of our study


I: Is care for the poor something new? Are riches evil in themselves?
II: What is the Mystical Body of Christ? Why does the Church evangelize?



I: Is care for the poor something new? Are riches evil in themselves?

John Paul II

Love for the poor is not something new: the whole tradition of the Church bears witness to the exercise of Christian charity

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Jesus came to call to conversion including the rich – the poverty He declared blessed is made up of detachment

Sacred Scripture

He who oppreses the poor blasphemes his Maker
Be mindful of the poor
No partiality with God
God provides for the great and small alike

Catechism of the Catholic Church

The Word speaks of voluntary humility as ‘poverty in spirit’


Erroneous and heretical: to declare that Jesus Christ and His apostles did not possess anything either in particular or even in common

Saint Augustine of Hippo

The Lord chose both the rich and the poor

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Preference given to the poor, without exclusion


The preferential option for the poor is neither exclusive nor excluding
True human promotion cannot be reduced to particular aspects

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

The temptation to reduce the Gospel to an earthly gospel
An exclusive option for the poor could be partisan and a source of conflict

Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)

Man’s horizons are not limited only to the temporal order


Virtue: common inheritance of men, within the reach of the rich and poor
The two classes should dwell in harmony. A great mistake: that one class is naturally hostile to another

Saint Ambrose of Milan

Not all the poor are blessed
Not all poverty is holy, nor is all richness criminal
Riches may be a hindrance for the evil; or a great help for virtue in the good

Saint Augustine of Hippo

The Lord calls rich the one who yearns for temporal goods

Saint Clement of Alexandria

The abundance of necessary things keeps the soul free and unimpeded

Saint Thomas Aquinas

Riches are good if they advance the practice of virtue; poverty is praiseworthy if it frees from vices
Poverty and riches are not to be judged evil in themselves; the use of them may be evil

Saint John Chrysostom

I blame not those who have houses, and lands, and wealth: be masters and not slaves of your riches

II: What is the Mystical Body of Christ? Why does the Church evangelize?

Sacred Scripture

The Word became flesh; from his fullness we have all received
To be clothed with Christ, one must be baptized
Christ is the head of the Body

Saint Thomas Aquinas

The sacraments of the Church bestow us with the virtue of Christ’s Passion
The members form one mystic person with the Head, Christ

Catechism of the Catholic Church

One participates in the grace of Christ by Baptism

Gregory I, the Great

Christ took the Church to Himself, and forms with Her one mystical Person

Saint Augustine of Hippo

We are made Christ; if He is the head we are the members

Benedict XVI

The Word became man so that man might become a son of God

Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)

The life of Christ is imparted to His Body through the sacraments


At His baptism Christ was pleased to prefigure His Church

Pius XII

Those who are divided in faith or government cannot live in the unity of the Mystical Body, nor receive the life of the Spirit


The Church: common Mother of rich and poor, whose patrimony is guarded as inheritance of the poor

Pius IX

Charity is especially to bring those in error back to the Mystical Body of the Church

Paul VI

The Church will evangelize the world primarily by her fidelity to the Lord Jesus, by the witness of sanctity

Related studies

  • 159 – Diversity is a beautiful thing when it can constantly enter into a process of reconciliation and seal a sort of cultural covenant resulting in a ‘reconciled diversity’

  • 155 – “Any Church community, if it thinks it can comfortably go its own way without helping the poor will risk breaking down”

  • 154 – “The Church has never been better. This is a wonderful moment for the Church”

  • 153 – “The Church can sometimes fall into a needless hallowing of our own culture, and thus show more fanaticism than true evangelizing zeal”

  • 141 – “This insidious worldliness is evident in a number of attitudes. In some people we see an ostentatious preoccupation for the liturgy, for doctrine and for the Church’s prestige”

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