reflections, updates and homilies from Deacon Mike Talbot inspired by the following words from my ordination: Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach...
Pope's World Day of the Poor message: Don't look away!
Pope Francis pens a message for the annual World Day of the Poor, stressing that “whenever we encounter a poor person, we cannot look away, for that would prevent us from encountering the face of the Lord Jesus.”
By Joseph Tulloch
Pope Francis has released his message for the annual World Day of the Poor, stressing that a “great river of poverty is traversing our cities”, and that every Christian is called to become “personally involved” in the struggle against it.
His message for the World Day, which will be celebrated this year on Sunday 19th November, takes the form of an extended reflection on the Book of Tobit.
The scale of the problem
Pope Francis begins his message by stressing that “a great river of poverty is traversing our cities and swelling to the point of overflowing; it seems to overwhelm us, so great are the needs of our brothers and sisters who plead for our help, support and solidarity.”
“We are living”, he continues, “in times that are not particularly sensitive to the needs of the poor. The pressure to adopt an affluent lifestyle increases, while the voices of those dwelling in poverty tend to go unheard."
In particular, he stresses “new forms of poverty”, such as “peoples caught up in situations of war”, the “inhumane treatment” of many workers, and “speculation in various sectors”, which he said had led to “dramatic price increases that further impoverish many families”.
Faced with problems of this magnitude, Pope Francis writes, our responsibility is clear. We must heed Tobit’s words to Tobias: ““Do not turn your face away from anyone who is poor.”
“In a word,” he continues, “whenever we encounter a poor person, we cannot look away, for that would prevent us from encountering the face of the Lord Jesus."
Thus, “the parable of the Good Samaritan (cf. Lk 10:25-37) is not simply a story from the past; it continues to challenge each of us in the here and now of our daily lives. It is easy to delegate charity to others, yet the calling of every Christian is to become personally involved.”
The political process
Pope Francis goes on to point out that this year is the 60th anniversary of the publication of Pope John XXIII’s landmark encyclical Pacem in Terris, in which he urged that “Every human being enjoys the right to life, to bodily integrity and to the means necessary for the proper development of life, including food, clothing, shelter, medical care, rest, and, finally, the necessary social services.”
How to act, Pope Francis asks, in the face of the failure of the political process to deliver these goods?
The answer, he says, is two-fold. There is, one the one hand, “a need to urge and even pressure public institutions to perform their duties properly”, but, on the other, “it is of no use to wait passively to receive everything ‘from on high’”.
Those living in poverty, Pope Francis stresses, ought also to be included in this search for “change and responsibility.”