CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 16 December 2017

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The pope’s day with the poor

ROME (SE): Pope Francis once said that he has learned two things in life; to speak simply and to use symbols.
 
In unearthing World Day of the Poor he picked a potent symbol for the whole of the Church as a sign that Christians should be serious about their commitment to promoting human welfare, not just leaving it to others, but in their own person.
 
“On this day, I invite the entire Church to keep its gaze fixed on those who hold out their hands asking for our solidarity,” Pope Francis said in a tweet.
 
However, as pope, he is not saying much about this issue that has not been said many times before by his predecessors, but his way of putting his message across, replete with catchy sound bites, smelling like the sheep for example, are stark in attracting attention.
 
Pope Francis gathered with some 7,000 people in St. Peter’s Square on November 19, World Day of the Poor, with the seating arrangement placing homeless and poor people from around Rome, as well as refugees in the front row, where bishops and cardinals usually take their place.
 
Saying that we are all talented, the pope explained, “Consequently, no one can think that he or she is useless, so poor as to be incapable of giving something to others.”
 
He went on to comment that God is only displeased with us if we do not use the talents given us or if we fail to do good. “Omission is the great sin where the poor are concerned… it is called indifference,” he commented.
 
“It is when we say, ‘That doesn’t concern me; it is not my business; it is society’s problem.’ It is when we turn away from a brother or sister in need, when we change channels as soon as a disturbing question comes up, when we grow indignant at evil, but do nothing about it. God will not ask us if we felt righteous indignation, but whether we did some good,” Pope Francis told the gathering.
 
“To do no wrong is not enough. God is not an inspector looking for unstamped tickets; he is a father looking for children to whom he can entrust his property and his plans.”
 
He continued saying that in the faces of the poor, “We can imagine seeing Jesus’ own face; on their lips, even if pursed in pain, we can hear his words: ‘This is my body’.”
 
“We see true goodness and strength not in closed fists and crossed arms, but in ready hands outstretched to the poor, to the wounded flesh of the Lord. There, in the poor, we find the presence of Jesus.”
 
He explained that loving the poor is the way to combat poverty, both spiritual and material, and we will benefit personally by allowing ourselves to be touched by the lives of those who do not enjoy the material benefits that we do.
 
“It will remind us of what really counts: to love God and our neighbours. Only this lasts forever, everything else passes away,” Pope Francis said.
 
He added that in the poor we meet Jesus, who speaks to us and appeals to us through their suffering and their need, even though in the eyes of the world they may have little value, saying that they are the ones who open to us the way to heaven, as they are our passports to paradise.
 
Calling the poor the real riches of society, Pope Francis added that we could well ask ourselves what counts in life. “Where am I making my investments?” he suggested is a viable question, “in order to gain things on earth, or to give things away in order to gain heaven.”
 
Taking a meal with 1,500 poor and homeless people, the pope was personal with them, wandering around and mingling as he ate at the Paul VI Hall in the Vatican.
 
The meal was replicated for some 2,500 other people at monasteries, colleges and Church networks around Rome.
 
The World Day of the Poor is part of Francis’ continuing drive to call Catholics and Christians everywhere to live the gospel more authentically by giving priority to the words of Jesus about care for the poor. It is a profoundly religious message about meaning in our lives and motivation for how we live.

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