Honor ‘World Day of the Poor’ by extending your hands and opening your hearts
The World Day of the Poor is a new celebration on the Catholic liturgical calendar, created by Pope Francis at the end of the Jubilee Year of Mercy in 2016 in a document titled “Misericordia et Misera “(“Mercy with Misery”). The Pope asked Catholics to celebrate the special day every year on the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time. This year the date is November 19th and will focus on the Evangelist John’s call to love “not with words, but with deeds.” Jesus was born into poverty. He lived with poor people and was poor when he died.
Pope Francis is calling on Catholics around the world to serve the poor with concrete actions that address their daily needs explaining that service to them is “an imperative that no Christian may disregard.” We cannot be indifferent to growing poverty in the world as a privileged minority accumulates “ostentatious wealth.” The Pope expresses how “God created heavens and the earth for all; yet sadly some have erected barriers, walls and fences, betraying the original gift meant for all humanity, with none excluded.”
The Pope insists that if we truly wish to encounter Christ, we have to “touch his body in the suffering bodies of the poor, as a response to the sacramental communion bestowed in the Eucharist.” The Body of Christ can be seen “through charity and sharing, in the faces and persons of the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters.” The World Day of the Poor is meant to encourage believers to react against “a culture of discard and waste, and to embrace a culture of encounter.” Catholics and other persons of good are urged “to turn their gaze to all who stretch out their hands and plead for our help and solidarity.”
In his Apostolic Letter “Misericordia et Misera” the Pope described how Christians can be seen within a new light as blessed in the style of Jesus Christ’s beatitudes. In fact, the Pontiff created three new beatitudes:
“Blessed are the open hands that embrace the poor and help them, they are hands that bring hope.”
“Blessed are the hands that reach beyond every barrier of culture, religion and nationality and pour the balm of consolation over the wounds of humanity.”
“Blessed are the open hands that ask nothing in exchange, with no ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’ or ‘maybes’, they are hands that call down God’s blessing upon their brothers and sisters.”
In his Apostolic Letter the Pope calls on us to respond to the many forms of material and spiritual poverty by adopting a new vision of life and society. The Supreme Pontiff will personally offer lunch to about 500 poor people in the Vatican’s Paul VI Audience Hall on November 19, 2017 after celebrating Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. Following the teaching of Scripture, Pope Francis will welcome these poor persons as honored guests at his table, and they will in turn be teachers who help us all to live the faith more consistently.
St. John Chrysostom explains convincingly that “if you want to honor the body of Christ, do not scorn it when it is naked; do not honor the Eucharistic Christ with silk vestments and then, leaving the church, neglect the other Christ suffering from cold and nakedness.”
Pope Francis continues explaining how the “Our Father” is the prayer of the poor. Our asking for bread expresses our trust and dependence on God for our basic needs in life. Everything that Jesus taught us in this prayer expresses the cry of all who suffer from life’s uncertainties. As brothers and sisters, the “Our Father” is a prayer said in the plural. The bread for which we ask is “ours” and that means sharing, participation and joint responsibility. Therefore, we must overcome every form of selfishness in order to enter into the joy of mutual acceptance.
I will ask my parishioners to dedicate the week preceding the World Day of the Poor and the actual Sunday to creative initiatives fostering encounter, friendship, solidarity and concrete assistance to the poor. I am appealing to their consciences as believers in Christ. This recognition and action will allow all of us to grow in the conviction of sharing with the poor which enables us to understand in a deeper way the truth of the Gospel. Christians must reach out to the poor as Christ did since they are not a problem, but a resource rich in dignity and Godgiven gifts that help Christians better understand the essential truth of the Gospel. So, pray to Mother Teresa---“St. Teresa of Kolkata”--to intercede for you to help the poor----a mission that enveloped her whole “sainted” life. The Rev. Gus Puleo is pastor of St. Patrick Church in Norristown and adjunct professor of Spanish at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. He is a graduate of Norristown High School and attended Georgetown University, where he received B.A. and B.S. in Spanish and linguistics. He has master’s degrees in Spanish, linguistics and divinity from Middlebury College, Georgetown University and St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. He holds a Ph.D. in Spanish from the University of Pennsylvania.