As I have done for the previous two celebrations of the World Day of the Poor, I want to publish certain sections of the long message Pope Francis has written for us to reflect upon as we celebrate the Third Day of the Poor this year on Sunday, November 17. I would really encourage you to visit the Vatican website soon in order to read the entire document because it is most worthwhile. It addresses so many of the contemporary situations we find not only in the United States but in many of the metropolitan cities throughout the world. Pope Francis not only discusses the reality of the poor; he also suggests solutions, especially in light of the Word of God, the Scriptures.
“‘The hope of the poor will not perish for ever’ (Ps 9:19). These words of the Psalm remain timely. They express a profound truth that faith impresses above all on the hearts of the poor, restoring lost hope in the face of injustice, sufferings and the uncertainties of life.
“The Psalmist describes the condition of the poor and the arrogance of those who oppress them (cf. 10:1-10). He invokes God’s judgment to restore justice and overcome evil (cf. 10:14-15). In his words, we hear an echo of age-old questions. How can God tolerate this disparity? How can he let the poor be humiliated without coming to their aid? Why does he allow oppressors to prosper instead of condemning their conduct, especially in the light of the sufferings of the poor?
“The Psalm was composed at a time of great economic development that, as often happens, also led to serious social imbalances. The inequitable distribution of wealth created a significant number of poor people, whose condition appeared all the more dramatic in comparison with the wealth attained by a privileged few. The Psalmist, observing the situation, paints a picture as realistic as it is true.
“It was a time when arrogant and ungodly people hounded the poor, seeking to take possession even of what little they had, and to reduce them to bondage. The situation is not much different today. The economic crisis had not prevented large groups of people from accumulating fortunes that often appear all the more incongruous when, in the streets of our cities, we daily encounter great numbers of the poor who lack the bare necessities of life and are at times harassed and exploited. The words of the Book of Revelation come to mind: ‘You say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing. You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked’ (Rev 3:17). The centuries pass, but the condition of the rich and poor remains constant, as if history has taught us nothing. The words of the Psalm, then, are not about the past, but about our present, as it stands before God’s judgment.
“Today, too, we must acknowledge many new forms of bondage that enslave millions of men, women, young people and children. Daily we encounter families forced to leave their homeland to seek a living elsewhere; orphans who have lost their parents or were violently torn from them by brutal means of exploitation; young people seeking professional fulfillment but prevented from employment by shortsighted economic policies; victims of different kinds of violence, ranging from prostitution to the narcotics trade, and profoundly demeaned. How can we overlook, too, the millions of immigrants who fall victim to any number of concealed interests, often exploited for political advantage, and are refused solidarity and equality? And all the homeless and ostracized persons who roam the streets of our cities?
“How many times do we see poor people rummaging through garbage bins to retrieve what others have discarded as superfluous, in the hope of finding something to live on or to wear! They themselves become part of a human garbage bin; they are treated as refuge, without the slightest sense of guilt on the part of those who are complicit in this scandal. Frequently judged parasites on society, the poor are not even forgiven their poverty. Judgment is always around the corner. They are not allowed to be timid or discouraged; they are seen as a threat or simply useless, simply because they are poor.
“To make matters worse, they can see no end to the tunnel of extreme poverty. We have come to the point of devising a hostile architecture aimed at ridding the streets of their presence, the last places left to them. They roam from one end of the city to the other in the hope of getting a job, a home, a sign of affection. The least offer becomes a ray of light, yet even where justice might be expected to prevail, they meet with violence and abuse. Forced to work endless hours under a burning sun to gather seasonal fruits, they receive ridiculously low pay. They labor in unsafe and inhuman conditions that prevent them from feeling on a par with others. They lack unemployment compensation, benefits, or even provision for sickness.
“The Psalmist describes with brutal realism the attitude of the rich who rob the poor: ‘They lie in wait that they may seize the poor…and drag them off in their net’ (cf. Ps 10:9). As in a hunt, the poor are trapped, captured and enslaved. As a result, many of them become disheartened, hardened and anxious only to drop out of sight. In a word, we see before us a multitude of poor people often maligned and barely tolerated. They become for all effects invisible and their voice is no longer heard or heeded in society—men and women who are increasingly strangers amid our houses and outcasts in our neighborhoods.
“The setting of the Psalm is tinged with sadness at the injustice, the suffering, and the disappointment endured by the poor. At the same time, it offers a touching definition of the poor: they are those who ‘put their trust in the Lord,’ in the certainty that they will never be forsaken. In the Scriptures, the poor are those who trust! The Psalmist also gives the reason for this trust: they ‘know’ the Lord. In the language of the Bible, such ‘knowledge’ involves a personal relationship of affection and love.
“Impressive and completely unexpected as this description is, it simply expresses the grandeur of God, as shown in the way he relates to the poor. His creative power surpasses all human expectations and is shown in his being ‘mindful’ of each individual. It is precisely this confidence in the Lord, this certainty of not being forsaken, that inculcates hope. The poor know that God cannot abandon them; hence, they live always in the presence of God who is mindful of them. God’s help extends beyond their present state of suffering in order to point out a path of liberation that profoundly strengthens and transforms the heart….
“In closeness to the poor, the Church comes to realize that she is one people, spread throughout many nations and called to ensure that no one feels a stranger or outcast, for she includes everyone in a shared journey of salvation. The situation of the poor obliges us not to keep our distance from the body of the Lord, who suffers in them. Instead, we are called to touch his flesh and to be personally committed in offering a service that is an authentic form of evangelization. Commitment to the promotion of the poor, including their social promotion, is not foreign to the proclamation of the Gospel. On the contrary, it manifests the realism of Christian faith and its historical validity. The love that gives life to faith in Jesus makes it impossible for his disciples to remain enclosed in a stifling individualism or withdrawn into small circles of spiritual intimacy, with no influence on social life (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 183)….
“‘The option for those who are least, those whom society discards’ (Evangelii Gaudium, 195) is a priority that Christ’s followers are called to pursue, so as not to impugn the Church’s credibility but to give real hope to many of our vulnerable brothers and sisters. Christian charity finds concrete expression in them, for by their compassion and their willingness to share the love of Christ with those in need, they are themselves strengthened and confirm the preaching of the Gospel.
“The involvement of Christians in this World Day of the Poor and especially in the events of everyday life, goes beyond initiatives of assistance. Praiseworthy and necessary as the latter may be, they should have the goal of encouraging in everyone a greater concern for individuals in any kind of distress. ‘Loving attentiveness is the beginning of true concern’ (Evangelii Gaudium, 199) for the poor and the promotion of their genuine welfare. It is not easy to be witnesses of Christian hope in the context of a consumerist culture, a culture of waste concerned only for the spread of a shallow and ephemeral wellbeing. A change of mentality is needed in order to rediscover what is essential and to give substance and verve to the preaching of the kingdom of God.
“Hope is also communicated by the sense of fulfillment born of accompanying the poor not for a brief moment of enthusiasm, but through a constant commitment over time. The poor acquire genuine hope, not from seeing us gratified by giving them a few moments of our time, but from recognizing in our sacrifice an act of gratuitous love that seeks no reward.
“I ask the many volunteers who merit recognition for being the first to see the importance of such concern for the poor to persevere in their dedicated service. Dear brothers and sisters, I encourage you to seek, in every poor person whom you encounter, his or her true needs, not to stop at their most obvious material needs, but to discover their inner goodness, paying heed to their background and their way of expressing themselves, and in this way to initiate a true fraternal dialogue. Let us set aside the divisions born of ideological and political positions, and instead fix our gaze on what is essential, on what does not call for a flood of words, but a gaze of love and an outstretched hand. Never forget that ‘the worst discrimination which the poor suffer is the lack of spiritual care’ (Evangelii Gaudium, 200….
“If the disciples of the Lord Jesus wish to be genuine evangelizers, they must sow tangible seeds of hope. I ask all Christian communities, and all those who feel impelled to offer hope and consolation to the poor, to help ensure that this World Day of the Poor will encourage more and more people to cooperate effecgively so that no one will feel deprived of closeness and solidarity. May you always treasure the words of the prophet who proclaims a different future: ‘For you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings’ (Mal 3:20)”
In light of Pope Francis’ call to have every parish do something special to heed the cry of the poor, our parish cluster of the Renew My Church effort decided that we would each decide what we would do but that we would promote the entire effort as a cluster. Here at St. Peter’s we are having a special meal at noon on Wednesday, November 20. We are most grateful to a number of local restaurants who have provided the food we will serve.. Let’s really make this World Day of the Poor come alive for the needy and for ourselves as well.
THIRTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Central to the readings are Jesus’ words in the Gospel: “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.” In the Gospel reading, Jesus predicts the Temple’s destruction. For the Jewish people, this would be disastrous since the Temple was where God dwelt among his people and the people carried out their religious sacrifices. Yet the words of Jesus came true. In AD 70, the Roman army destroyed the Temple and Jerusalem. As Jesus said, “Not a stone will be left upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”
The Church came to interpret the destruction of the Temple as a sign that the world will come to an end. Jesus’ words here are not meant to be taken literally as though he is offering a blueprint for what will occur at the end of the world. The foundational message is that, just as God brought our world into existence, so God will bring the world as we know it to an end. Jesus warns his followers not to be afraid and not to be deceived by people who claim to read the signs of the times and foretell when the end will happen. As we experience natural disasters, deceptions, and persecution, the virtue that should be the hallmark of our lives is perseverance. Trust in the Lord’s guidance and protection.
In the First Reading, the prophet Malachi offers further advice regarding the end of time. When God’s judgment occurs, those who are faithful and “fear the name” of the Lord will experience God’s healing and salvation.
Jesus cautions his disciples not to rely on the material as he tells of the destruction of the Temple. He foretells its destruction as a way of explaining how his physical self would die to usher in a new age. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains: “Jesus venerated the Temple by going up to it for the Jewish feasts of pilgrimage, and with a jealous love he loved this dwelling of God among men. The Temple prefigures his own mystery. When he announces its destruction, it is a manifestation of his own execution and of the entry into a new age in the history of salvation, when his Body would be the definitive Temple” (#593).
For Your Reflection: What is your vision of the Kingdom of God, a time when the Lord rules with justice? How have you imitated another in your practice of the faith? When have you spoken in a way that you knew God was speaking through you?
SECOND COLLECTION NEXT WEEKEND
The Second Collection next weekend in all parishes throughout the United States will be for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. More than 46 million people in the United States live in poverty today. This collection supports programs that empower people to identify and address obstacles as they work to make permanent and positive changes for their communities. Learn more about the Catholic Campaign for Human Development at www.usccb.org/cchd/collection.
A CHUCKLE FOR YOUR PLEASURE
Ralph took a job with a construction company to paint lines on Texas Road 82. The first day he painted ten miles. The boss was very impressed.
The second day he painted two miles. The boss was a little disappointed. The third day he only painted 500 feet.
The boss sat him down and said, “Ralph, how come you painted ten miles the first day, two miles the next day, and now only 500 feet today?”
Ralph innocently replied, “Well, boss, each day I get farther and farther away from the paint can.”