In his message for the Fourth World Day of the Poor, Francis writes that care for the poor “cannot be conditioned by the time available or by private interests, or by impersonal pastoral or social projects.” Goodness exists even though “Bad news fills the pages of newspapers, websites and television screens, to the point that evil seems to reign supreme.” Many hands have been stretched forth during the pandemic.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis today released his message for the Fourth World Day of the Poor centred on the theme ‘Stretch forth your hand to the poor’ (Sir 7:32).
In it, he says that the Christian community should not delegate to others the duty of sharing with people in need. Care for the poor “cannot be conditioned by the time available or by private interests, or by impersonal pastoral or social projects.”
Although “Poverty always appears in a variety of guises,” as evinced by the ongoing pandemic, Christians have a duty to fight it amid the “globalization of indifference”.
The papal message starts with book of Sirach saying that “Prayer to God and solidarity with the poor and suffering are inseparable. In order to perform an act of worship acceptable to the Lord, we have to recognize that each person, even the poorest and most contemptible, is made in the image of God.”
For this reason, “We cannot feel ‘alright’ when any member of the human family is left behind and in the shadows.” Even though the Church “has no comprehensive solutions to propose,” she can share “the great value of the common good,” which “is a vital commitment, expressed in the effort to ensure that no one whose human dignity is violated in its basic needs will be forgotten.
“The ability to stretch forth our hand shows that we possess an innate capacity to act in ways that give meaning to life. How many outstretched hands do we see every day!” indeed, goodness exists even if “Bad news fills the pages of newspapers, websites and television screens, to the point that evil seems to reign supreme. But that is not the case.”
“A hand held out is a sign; a sign that immediately speaks of closeness, solidarity and love. In these months, when the whole world was prey to a virus that brought pain and death, despair and bewilderment, how many outstretched hands have we seen!”
The Pope mentions doctors, nurses, volunteers, pharmacists, “administrators who procured the means to save as many lives as possible,” the “priests whose hearts broke as they offered a blessing,” as well as the “men and women who worked to provide essential services and security.
“We could continue to speak of so many other outstretched hands, all of which make up a great litany of good works. Those hands defied contagion and fear in order to offer support and consolation.”
“The present experience has challenged many of our assumptions. [. . .] Our spiritual and material resources were called into question and we found ourselves experiencing fear.” The destruction of social life has pitted us against each other to defend our interests; in short, “until we revive our sense of responsibility for our neighbour and for every person, grave economic, financial and political crises will continue.
“This year’s theme – ‘Stretch forth your hand to the poor’ – is thus a summons to responsibility and commitment as men and women who are part of our one human family. [. . .] “This is not an option, but rather a sign of the authenticity of the faith we profess.” It “challenges the attitude of those who prefer to keep their hands in their pockets and to remain unmoved by situations of poverty in which they are often complicit.”
“Some hands are outstretched to accumulate money by the sale of weapons that others, including those of children, use to sow death and poverty. Other hands are outstretched to deal doses of death in dark alleys in order to grow rich and live in luxury and excess, or to quietly pass a bribe for the sake of quick and corrupt gain. Others still, parading a sham respectability, lay down laws which they themselves do not observe. Amid all these scenarios, ‘the excluded are still waiting.’”
Francis notes that “’In everything you do, remember your end’ (Sir 7:36). These are the final words of this chapter of the book of Sirach. They can be understood in two ways. First, our lives will sooner or later come to an end. Remembering our common destiny can help lead to a life of concern for those poorer than ourselves or lacking the opportunities that were ours. But second, there is also an end or goal towards which each of us is tending. And this means that our lives are a project and a process.
Ultimately, “The ‘end’ of all our actions can only be love. This is the ultimate goal of our journey, and nothing should distract us from it. This love is one of sharing, dedication and service, born of the realization that we were first loved and awakened to love.”
“An outstretched hand, then, can always be enriched by the smile of those who quietly and unassumingly offer to help, inspired only by the joy of living as one of Christ’s disciples.” (FP)