Honor ‘World Day of the Poor’ by ex­tend­ing your hands and open­ing your hearts

The Times Herald (Norristown, PA) - - LOCAL NEWS - Fa­ther Gus Colum­nist

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.

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