Listen to those in need, pope says in World Day of Poor message

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IMAGE: CNS/Tyler Orsburn

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — How is it
that God in heaven can hear the cries of the poor, but so many people watching
or standing nearby either cannot or just do not care, Pope Francis asked.

People must make
“a serious examination of conscience to understand whether we are really
capable of listening to the poor,” the pope said in a message for the
World Day of the Poor.

The recently
established commemoration and the period of reflection and action preceding it
are meant to give Christians a chance to follow Christ’s example and concretely
share a moment of love, hope and respect together with those in need in one’s
community, the pope said in the message dated June 13, the feast of St. Anthony
of Padua, patron saint of the poor. The Vatican released the message to the
public June 14.

The World Day of
the Poor — to be marked each year on the 33rd Sunday of ordinary time — will
be celebrated Nov. 18 this year and will focus on a verse from Psalm 34,
“This poor one cried out and the Lord heard.”

“We can ask
ourselves, how is it this cry, which reaches all the way to God, is unable to penetrate
our ears and leaves us indifferent and impassive?” the pope asked in his
message.

To become aware
of people’s suffering and know how best to respond with love, people must learn
to be silent and listen, the pope said.

“If we
speak too much ourselves, we will be unable to hear them,” he said.

That is often
what happens when otherwise important and needed initiatives are carried out
more as a way to please oneself “than to really acknowledge the cry of the
poor,” he said.

“We are so
entrapped in a culture which forces us to look in the mirror” and unduly
“pamper ourselves,” he said. Such people come to believe their act of
altruism is enough without having to feel any empathy or the need to sacrifice
or “endanger” themselves directly.

Nobody seeks
poverty or its many forms, which include marginalization, persecution and
injustice, the pope said.

Poverty “is
caused by selfishness, pride, greed and injustice. These are evils as old as humanity,
but also sins in which the innocents are caught up, leading to consequences on
the social level, which are dramatic,” he said.

“God’s
answer to the poor is always an intervention of salvation in order to heal the
wounds of body and soul, restore justice and assist in beginning anew to live
life with dignity. God’s answer is also an appeal in order that those who
believe in him can do the same,” he added.

The World Day of
the Poor is meant to be a small contribution that the whole church can make so
the poor may know their cries have not gone unheard, the pope said in his
message.

“It is like
a drop of water in the desert of poverty; and yet it can be a sign of sharing
for those who are in need, that they might experience the active presence of a
brother or a sister,” he said.

This encounter
is a call for personal involvement, not delegation to others, he said. And it
is not cold, distant giving, but an act that requires “loving
attentiveness” just like God offers everyone.

So many people
in need are seeking the meaning of their existence and a response to their
questions about “why they have fallen so far and how they can escape! They
are waiting from someone to come up and say, ‘Take heart; rise, he is calling
you,'” the pope said.

Unfortunately,
people are often repelled by, not drawn to the poor, he said. The cries of the
poor are often met with rebuke and they are told, “to shut up and put
up.”

There is a real
“phobia of the poor,” who are seen not only as destitute, but also as
carriers of “insecurity and instability,” to be rejected and kept
afar.

But this
tendency to create a distance means people distance themselves from Jesus
himself, “who does not reject the poor, but calls them to him and consoles
them,” he said.

Even though
members of the Catholic Church who offer their care and assistance are
motivated by their faith and the desire to share the Good News with others, he
said bishops, priests, religious and lay Catholics should recognize that “in
the immense world of poverty, our capacity for action is limited, weak and
insufficient.”

The church
should cooperate with others so joint efforts can reach their objectives more
effectively, he said.

The church
should give freely with an attitude of humility, “without seeking the
limelight,” he said.

“In serving
the poor, the last thing we need is a battle for first place,” he said.
The poor don’t need heroes, but a love which knows how to remain hidden from
worldly recognition, he said.

“The true
protagonists are the Lord and the poor,” and those who serve are mere
instruments “in God’s hands in order to make manifest his presence and
salvation.”

Archbishop Rino
Fisichella, president of Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization,
told reporters the pope hopes the day will remind everyone in the church to turn
their gaze to the poor, truly listen to their needs and respond directly with
love in a way that aims to restore their dignity.

Local churches,
associations and institutions are again asked to creative initiatives that foster
moments of real encounter, friendship, solidarity and concrete assistance.

The archbishop
said the pope will celebrate Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Nov. 18 with the poor
and volunteers, and he will have lunch afterward with about 3,000 people in the
Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall. Other volunteer groups and schools were also
set to offer free meals in an atmosphere of “celebration and
sharing,” he added.

Medical tents
and mobile clinics will again be set up in the square adjoining St. Peter’s
Square Nov. 12-18, with extended evening hours until midnight for some
services, he said. Anyone in need can find general and specialist care,
including cardiology, dermatology, gynecology and ophthalmology.

 

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