CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 June 2019

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Cry of the Poor

Two years ago, at the conclusion of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis issued the Apostolic Letter, Misericordia et Misera (Time of Mercy), to underscore the need to encourage the spirit of mercy in the Church and declared that the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time every year would be celebrated as the World Day of the Poor.
 
The World Day of the Poor is arguably the best preparation for the celebration of the feast of Christ the King on the following Sunday, as the Jesus himself came among us as one of the lowest and the poorest. Our acts of mercy are concrete responses to the call of the gospel. 
 
The World Day of the Poor also calls on us to consider a central issue of the gospel—poverty. As long as there is still a Lazarus lying at the door (Luke 16:19-21), there is still a lack of justice in the world and a lack of peace in society. This commemorative day will become a practical form of evangelisation.
 
Today, about 12 per cent of the world’s population lives in extreme poverty, living on less than US$1.9 ($14.89) per day. This situation is rarely found in Hong Kong—the concept of poverty the city adopts that of relative poverty. In other words, some people have a lower standard of living in such aspects as family, material and social resources than others. They also receive scarce social resources by comparison and cannot enjoy normal standard of living and normal rights pertaining to social livelihood. 
 
The Hong Kong government announced an official poverty line for the first time in 2013, defined as 50 per cent of the median household income. This means that the median for a family of three would be $30,000. If that family’s medain income is less than $15,000 the are considered to be poor. According to census data collected in 2016, the number of people who fall below the median household income in Hong Kong numbered 1.35 million.
 
Based on the approximate the city’s population of 7.39 million, one out of five people lives in poverty.
 
The mention of the word poverty may lead some to think: “I am poor, too! Everyone’s life is difficult in Hong Kong!” 
 
Pope Francis, in his message for the second World Day of the Poor, quoted St. Teresa of Avila by way of encouragement saying, “Poverty comprises many virtues. It is a vast domain.” If the faithful are able to discern authentic wealth and become authentically rich before God, they can become capable of sharing. God wishes that his followers should have a heart of generosity. Sharing lies not in how much a person owns, but in their willingness to share the joys and sorrows with others, regardless of how much they possesses. 
 
Through the acts of sharing, the faithful can melt ice cold hearts and hear the cry of the poor—“This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him” (Psalm 34:7), which is the theme of this year’s World Day of the Poor. 
 
The cry of the poor is a cry filled with hope. They desire to be heard and to be liberated. The poor evangelise the faithful and help them each day to discover the beauty of the gospel. 
 
On this day, may we feel that we are in debt to the poor. With hands outstretched to one another, a salvific encounter can take us to deepen our faith, inspire charity and hope as we advance towards the Lord who is to come. SE