Next Sunday, November 13, the VI World Day of the Poor will be celebrated. We leave you the message of Pope Francis for that day.
January 26, 2022
MESSAGE FROM THE POPE FOR THE VI WORLD DAY OF THE POOR
Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 13, 2022
Jesus Christ became poor for you (cf. 2 Cor 8:9)
January 26, 2022
1. “Jesus Christ became poor for you” (cf. 2 Co 8.9). With these words, the apostle Paul addresses the first Christians of Corinth, to lay the foundation for his commitment to solidarity with his brothers in need. The World Day of the Poor It is also presented this year as a healthy provocation to help us reflect on our lifestyle and on so many poverties of the present moment.
A few months ago, the world was emerging from the storm of the pandemic, showing signs of economic recovery that would bring relief to millions of people impoverished by job loss. A little serenity could be glimpsed that, without forgetting the pain of losing loved ones, promised to finally be able to return to direct interpersonal relationships, to meet again without limitations or restrictions. And it is then that a new catastrophe has appeared on the horizon, destined to impose a different scenario on the world.
The war in Ukraine was added to the regional wars that in these years are bringing death and destruction. But here the picture is more complex due to the direct intervention of a “superpower”, which intends to impose its will against the principle of self-determination of peoples. Scenes of tragic memory are repeated and once again the reciprocal blackmail of some powerful silences the voice of humanity that invokes peace.
2. How many poor people are generated by the folly of war! Wherever you look, you see how violence affects the defenseless and the weakest. Deportation of thousands of people, especially children, to uproot them and impose another identity on them. The words of the Psalmist become current before the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of the young Hebrews: «By the rivers of Babylon / we sat down to weep, / remembering Zion. / In the willows of the banks / we hung our zithers. / There our jailers / asked us for songs, / and our oppressors, happiness. / [...] How could we sing a song of the Lord / in a foreign land?” (Sal 137,1-4).
There are millions of women, children, the elderly forced to defy the danger of bombs in order to be safe, seeking shelter as refugees in neighboring countries. Those who remain in the conflict zones live every day with fear and lack of food, water, medical care and, above all, affection. In these situations, reason is obscured and those who suffer the consequences are many ordinary people, who add to the already large number of indigents. How to give an adequate response that brings relief and peace to so many people, left at the mercy of uncertainty and precariousness?
3. It is in this very contradictory context that the VI World Day of the Poor, with the invitation —taken from the apostle Paul— to keep our gaze fixed on Jesus, who "being rich, became poor for us, in order to enrich us with his poverty" (2 Co 8.9). On his visit to Jerusalem, Paul had met Peter, James, and John, who had asked him not to forget the poor. The community of Jerusalem, in fact, was in serious difficulties due to the famine that was plaguing the country, and the Apostle had immediately taken care to organize a large collection for the poor. The Corinthian Christians were very sensitive and available. At Pablo's suggestion, every first day of the week they collected what they had managed to save and everyone was very generous.
As if time had not passed since that moment, we too, every Sunday, during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, carry out the same gesture, pooling our offerings so that the community can provide for the needs of the poorest. It is a sign that Christians have always carried out with joy and a sense of responsibility, so that no sister or brother lacks what is necessary. This is already attested to by Saint Justin, who, in the second century, explaining the Sunday celebration of Christians to the Emperor Antonio Pio, wrote as follows: «On the day called “of the Sun” everyone gathers together, inhabitants of the city or of the countryside, and the memoirs of the Apostles or the writings of the prophets are read as time permits. […] Then the fraction and distribution of the elements consecrated to each one is made and through the deacons it is sent to those who are absent. The wealthy and those who wish to give freely, each one what they want and what is collected is deposited with the priest. He helps the orphans, the widows, and those who are destitute by illness or any other cause, the imprisoned, the foreigners who are among us: in short, he takes care of anyone who is in need" (First Apology, 67, 1-6).
4. Returning to the community of Corinth, after initial enthusiasm, their commitment began to wane and the initiative proposed by the Apostle lost strength. This is the reason that stimulates Paul to write passionately insisting on the collection, «bring it to completion now, so that the facts respond, according to the possibilities of each one, to the decision of the will» (2 Co 8,11).
I think at this moment of the availability that, in recent years, has moved entire populations to open their doors to welcome millions of refugees from the wars in the Middle East, in Central Africa and now in Ukraine. Families have thrown their houses wide open to make room for other families, and communities have generously welcomed so many women and children to offer them due dignity. However, the longer the conflict lasts, the more its consequences worsen. It is increasingly difficult for the host peoples to provide continuity of aid; families and communities begin to feel the weight of a situation that goes beyond the emergency. This is the time not to give in and to renew the initial motivation. What we have started needs to be carried out with the same responsibility.
5. Solidarity, in fact, is precisely this: sharing what little we have with those who have nothing, so that no one suffers. The more the sense of community and communion as a way of life grows, the more solidarity develops. On the other hand, it is necessary to consider that there are countries where, in recent decades, there has been a significant increase in well-being for many families, who have achieved a secure life status. This is a positive result due to private initiative and laws that have supported economic growth articulated with a specific incentive for family policies and social responsibility. The heritage of security and stability achieved can now be shared with those who have been forced to leave their home and their country to save themselves and survive. As members of civil society, let us keep alive the call to the values of freedom, responsibility, brotherhood and solidarity. And as Christians we always find in charity, faith and hope the foundation of our being and our actions.
6. It is interesting to note that the Apostle does not want to force Christians by forcing them into a work of charity. In fact, he writes: "This is not an order" (2 Co 8.8); rather, she intends to "manifest the sincerity" of his love in care and concern for the poor (cf. ibid.). The foundation of Paul's request is certainly the need for concrete help, but his intention goes further. He invites you to take up the collection so that it may be a sign of love, as Jesus himself has witnessed. In short, generosity towards the poor finds its strongest motivation in the choice of the Son of God who wanted to make himself poor.
The Apostle, in fact, is not afraid to affirm that this choice of Christ, this "dispossession" of his, is a "grace", indeed, "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Co 8,9), and only by accepting it can we give concrete and coherent expression to our faith. The teaching of the entire New Testament has its unity around this theme, which is also reflected in the words of the Apostle James: “Put the Word into practice and do not be satisfied with just hearing it, so that you deceive yourselves. He who hears the Word and does not practice it, is like a man who looks in the mirror, but immediately leaves and forgets what he looks like. On the other hand, he who attentively considers the perfect Law, which makes us free, and becomes attached to it, not as a distracted listener, but as a true keeper of the Law, he will be happy by practicing it »(St 1,22-25).
7. Facing the poor, there is no rhetoric, but they get down to work and practice their faith, getting directly involved, without delegating to anyone. Sometimes, instead, a form of relaxation may prevail, leading to inconsistent behaviors, such as indifference to the poor. It also happens that some Christians, due to an excessive attachment to money, get bogged down in the misuse of goods and heritage. These are situations that manifest a weak faith and a weak and short-sighted hope.
We know that the problem is not money itself, because it is part of people's daily life and social relationships. Rather, what we should reflect on is the value that money has for us: it cannot become an absolute, as if it were the main purpose. Such attachment prevents us from observing everyday life realistically and clouds our gaze, preventing us from seeing the needs of others. Nothing more harmful can happen to a Christian and to a community than being dazzled by the idol of wealth, which ends up chaining them to an ephemeral and failed vision of life.
Therefore, it is not about having a welfare behavior towards the poor, as usually happens; instead, it is necessary to make an effort so that no one lacks what is necessary. It is not activism that saves, but the sincere and generous attention that allows us to approach a poor person like a brother who extends his hand so that I wake up from the lethargy in which I have fallen. For this reason, “nobody should say that they stay away from the poor because their life choices imply paying more attention to other matters. This is a frequent excuse in academic, business or professional, and even ecclesial environments. […] No one can feel exempt from concern for the poor and for social justice» (Exhort. ap. the gospel of joy, 201). It is urgent to find new paths that can go beyond the framework of those social policies "conceived as a towards the poor but never con the poor never from the poor and much less inserted in a project that reunites the peoples» (Letter enc. All brothers, 169). Instead, it is necessary to tend to assume the attitude of the Apostle who could write to the Corinthians: "It is not that you suffer need so that others live in abundance, but that there is equality" (2 Co 8,13).
8. There is a paradox that today as in the past is difficult to accept, because it contrasts with human logic: there is a poverty that enriches. By referring to the "grace" of Jesus Christ, Paul wants to confirm what he himself preached, that is, that true wealth does not consist in accumulating "treasures on earth, where moths and rust consume them, and thieves pierce the holes." walls and steal them» (Mt 6,19), but in reciprocal love that makes us bear each other's burdens so that no one is abandoned or excluded. The experience of weakness and limitation that we have lived in recent years, and now the tragedy of a war with global repercussions, must teach us something decisive: we are not in the world to survive, but so that everyone is allowed to have a life worthy and happy. Jesus' message shows us the way and makes us discover that there is a poverty that humiliates and kills, and there is another poverty, his, that frees us and makes us happy.
The poverty that kills is misery, the daughter of injustice, exploitation, violence and the unfair distribution of resources. It is a desperate poverty, without a future, because it is imposed by the throwaway culture that offers no prospects or solutions. It is misery that, while constraining the condition of extreme poverty, also affects the spiritual dimension which, although often neglected, does not exist or does not count for this. When the only law is that of calculating profits at the end of the day, then there is no longer any brake on the logic of exploiting people: others are just means. There are no more fair wages, fair working hours, and new forms of slavery are created, suffered by people who have no other alternative and must accept this poisonous injustice in order to obtain the minimum for their livelihood.
The poverty that liberates, on the other hand, is the one that is presented to us as a responsible choice to lighten the burden and focus on what is essential. In fact, you can easily find that feeling of dissatisfaction that many experience, because they feel that something important is missing and they go in search of it like wanderers without a goal. Eager to find what can satisfy them, they need to turn to the little ones, the weak, the poor in order to finally understand what they truly need. The encounter with the poor makes it possible to put an end to so many inconsistent anguishes and fears, to reach what really matters in life and that no one can steal from us: true and gratuitous love. The poor, in reality, rather than being the object of our alms, are subjects that help us free ourselves from the ties of restlessness and superficiality.
A father and doctor of the Church, Saint John Chrysostom, whose writings contain strong denunciations of the behavior of Christians towards the poorest, wrote: "If you cannot believe that poverty enriches you, think of your Lord and stop doubt this. If He had not been poor, you would not be rich; this is extraordinary, that out of poverty abundant wealth arose. Paul means here by "riches" the knowledge of godliness, purification from sins, righteousness, sanctification, and a thousand other good things that have been given to us now and forever. We have all this thanks to poverty» (Homilies on the Second Letter to the Corinthians, 17,1).
9. The text of the Apostle to which this VI refers World Day of the Poor presents the great paradox of the life of faith: the poverty of Christ makes us rich. If Paul was able to give this teaching —and the Church spread it and bear witness to it throughout the centuries— it is because God, in his Son Jesus, chose and followed this path. If He became poor for us, then our very life is enlightened and transformed, and acquires a value that the world neither knows nor can give. The richness of Jesus is his love, which is not closed to anyone and reaches out to everyone, especially those who are marginalized and deprived of what is necessary. Out of love he stripped himself and assumed the human condition. Out of love he became an obedient servant, until he died and died on the cross (cf. Flp 2,6-8). For love he became "bread of Life" (Jn 6,35), so that no one lacks what is necessary and can find the food that nourishes for eternal life. Even in our days it seems difficult, as it was then for the Lord's disciples, to accept this teaching (cf. Jn 6.60); but the word of Jesus is clear. If we want life to conquer death and dignity to be rescued from injustice, the path is theirs: it is to follow the poverty of Jesus Christ, sharing life out of love, breaking the bread of one's own existence with our brothers and sisters, starting with the smallest, those who lack what is necessary, so that equality is created, the poor are freed from misery and the rich from vanity, both without hope.
10. On May 15, I canonized Brother Charles de Foucauld, a man who, born rich, renounced everything to follow Jesus and become poor with Him and brother to all. His hermit life, first in Nazareth and then in the Sahara desert, made of silence, prayer and sharing, is an exemplary testimony of Christian poverty. It will do us good to meditate on these words of his: «Let us not despise the poor, the little ones, the workers; they are not only our brothers in God, but they are also those who most perfectly imitate Jesus in his outward life. They perfectly represent Jesus, the Worker of Nazareth. They are the firstborn among the elect, the first called to the cradle of the Savior. They were the usual company of Jesus, from his birth to his death […]. Let us honor them, let us honor in them the images of Jesus and of his holy parents […]. Let us take for ourselves [the condition] that He took for Himself […]. Let us never stop being poor in everything, brothers of the poor, companions of the poor, let us be the poorest of the poor like Jesus, and like him let us love the poor and surround ourselves with them” ( Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, Meditation 263) . For Brother Charles these were not just words, but a concrete lifestyle, which led him to share with Jesus the gift of life itself.
what is vi World Day of the Poor become an opportunity of grace, to make a personal and community examination of conscience, and ask ourselves if the poverty of Jesus Christ is our faithful companion of life.
Rome, Saint John Lateran, June 13, 2022, Memory of Saint Anthony of Padua.
January 26, 2022
 Meditation no. 263 envelope MESSAGE OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS 2,8-20: C. DE FOUCAULD, The Goodness of God. Meditations on the Holy Gospels (1), New City, Montrouge 1996, 214-216.