Message from Pope Francis for the VII World Day of the Poor 2023 that this year we celebrate the November 19th.
"Do not turn your face away from the poor" February 10, 2022Tb 4,7) is he motto that the Holy Father proposes for this year.
January 26, 2022
"Do not turn your face away from the poor" February 10, 2022Tb 4,7)
January 26, 2022
1. The World Day of the Poor, a fruitful sign of the Father's mercy, arrives for the seventh time to support the path of our communities. It is a quote that the Church is gradually taking root in its pastoral care, to discover more and more the central content of the Gospel. Every day we commit ourselves to welcoming the poor, but this is not enough. A river of poverty runs through our cities and becomes bigger and bigger until it overflows; That river seems to drag us, so much so that the cry of our brothers and sisters asking for help, support and solidarity becomes increasingly louder. Therefore, on the Sunday before the feast of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, we gather around his Table to receive from Him, once again, the gift and commitment to live poverty and serve the poor.
«Don't turn your face away from the poor» February 10, 2022Tb 4,7). This Word helps us capture the essence of our testimony. Stop at the Book of Tobias, a little-known text from the Old Testament, fascinating and rich in wisdom, will allow us to better delve into what the sacred author wishes to convey. Before us a scene of family life unfolds: a father, Tobit, bids farewell to his son Tobias, who is about to embark on a long journey. The old man fears that he will never see his son again and therefore leaves her his “spiritual will.” Tobit had been deported to Nineveh and had gone blind, so he was doubly poor, but he had always had one certainty, expressed in the name he bore: “The Lord has been my good.” This man, who always trusted in the Lord, as a good father does not so much want to leave his son some material good, but rather the testimony of the path to follow in life, which is why he tells him: "Remember the Lord all the days of your life." , my son, and do not deliberately sin or break his commandments. He performs works of justice every day of your life and do not follow the paths of injustice »(4,5).
2. As can be immediately seen, what the elderly Tobit asks his son to remember is not limited to a simple act of memory or a prayer addressed to God. It refers to concrete gestures that consist of doing good deeds and living justly. The exhortation becomes even more specific: to all those who practice justice, "give alms from your possessions and do not do it reluctantly" (4:7).
The words of this wise old man never cease to surprise us. Indeed, let us not forget that Tobit had lost his sight precisely after performing an act of mercy. As he himself tells it, from a young age his life was dedicated to doing works of charity: «I gave many alms to my brothers and my compatriots deported with me to Nineveh, in the country of the Assyrians. [...] I gave my bread to the hungry, I clothed those who were naked and I buried my compatriots, when I saw their corpses being thrown over the walls of Nineveh» (1,3.17).
For his testimony of charity, the king had deprived him of all his property, leaving him completely poor. But the Lord still needed him; Having regained his position as administrator, he was not afraid to continue with his lifestyle. Let us listen to his story, which also speaks to us today: «On our feast of Pentecost, which is the holy feast of the seven Weeks, they prepared a good meal for me and I prepared to eat. When I found the table full of delicacies, I said to my son Tobias: “My son, go look for among our brothers deported in Nineveh some poor person who remembers the Lord with all his heart, and bring him to share my food. I will wait until you return”» (2,1-2). It would be very significant if, on the Day of the Poor, this concern of Tobit were also ours. Invite to share Sunday lunch, after having shared the Eucharistic Table. The Eucharist celebrated would truly be a criterion of communion. On the other hand, if around the altar we are aware that we are all brothers and sisters, how much more visible would this fraternity be by sharing the festive meal with those who lack what is necessary!
Tobias did as his father had told him, but he returned with the news that a poor man had been murdered and abandoned in the middle of the square. Without hesitation, old Tobit got up from the table and went to bury that man. When he returned to his house, tired, he fell asleep in the patio; Bird dung fell on his eyes and he became blind (cf. 2:1-10). Irony of luck: you make a charitable gesture and a misfortune happens to you. The fact leads us to think like this; but faith teaches us to go deeper. Tobit's blindness will be the strength for him to recognize even better the numerous forms of poverty that surrounded him. And the Lord will take care in due time to restore the old father's sight and the joy of seeing his son Tobias again. When he arrived that day, Tobit “embraced him crying and said: “I see you, my son, light of my eyes!” And he added: “Blessed be God! Blessed be the great Name of him! Blessed are all his holy angels! May his great Name be upon us! Blessed are the angels for all ages! Because he had wounded me, but […] now I see my son Tobias” (11:13-15).
3. We can ask ourselves: where do Tobit's courage and inner strength come from that allow him to serve God in the midst of a pagan people and to love his neighbor to the point of endangering his own life? We are faced with an extraordinary example: Tobit was a faithful husband and an attentive father; he was deported far from his land and suffered unjustly; He was persecuted by the king and his neighbors. Despite having such a good soul, he was put to the test. As Holy Scripture often teaches us, God does not spare those who do good from trials. How is it possible? He does not do it to humiliate us, but to strengthen our faith in Him.
Tobit, at the moment of trial, discovers his own poverty, which makes him able to recognize the poor. He is faithful to God's Law and observes the commandments, but this is not enough for him. Effective attention to the poor was possible because he had experienced poverty in his own flesh. Therefore, the words he addresses to his son Tobias are his true inheritance: "Do not turn your face away from none poor” (4,7). In short, when we are faced with a poor person we cannot turn our gaze elsewhere, because that will prevent us from meeting the face of the Lord Jesus. And let's look closely at that expression "of none poor". Each one of them is our neighbor. The color of the skin, the social status, the origin does not matter. If I am poor, I can recognize who is the brother who really needs me. We are called to meet each poor person and each type of poverty, shaking off the indifference and banality with which we shield an illusory well-being.
4. We live in a historical moment that does not favor attention to the poorest. The call to well-being grows louder and louder, while the voices of those who live in poverty are silenced. There is a tendency to neglect everything that is not part of the life models intended especially for the younger generations, who are the most fragile in the face of the cultural change underway. What is unpleasant and causes suffering is put in parentheses, while physical qualities are exalted, as if they were the main goal to be achieved. Virtual reality takes over real life and the two worlds become more and more easily confused. The poor become images that can move for a few moments, but when they are found in the flesh on the street, then annoyance and marginalization intervene. Hurry, the daily companion of life, prevents us from stopping, helping and taking care of others. The parable of the good Samaritan (cf. MESSAGE OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS 10,25-37) is not a story of the past, it challenges the present of each one of us. Delegating to others is easy; Offering money for others to do charity is a generous gesture; The vocation of every Christian is to get involved in the first person.
5. We thank the Lord because there are many men and women who live dedicated to the poor and the excluded and who share with them; people of all ages and social conditions who practice welcoming and are committed to those who find themselves in situations of marginalization and suffering. They are not super-men, but “home neighbors” that we meet every day and who in silence become poor and with the poor. They don't just give something; They listen, they dialogue, they try to understand the situation and its causes, to give appropriate advice and fair references. They are attentive to material and spiritual needs, to the integral promotion of the person. The Kingdom of God becomes present and visible in this generous and free service; It is really like the seed fallen on the good soil of these people that bears fruit (cf. MESSAGE OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS 8,4-15). Gratitude towards so many volunteers calls for prayer so that their testimony can be fruitful.
6. On the 60th anniversary of the Encyclical Peace on Earth, it is urgent to return to the words of the holy Pope John XXIII when he wrote: «We observe that [man] has a right to existence, to bodily integrity, to the means necessary for a decent standard of living, which are, mainly, the food, clothing, housing, rest, medical care and, finally, the essential services that the State must provide to each person. From which it follows that man also has the right to personal security in the event of illness, disability, widowhood, old age, unemployment and, finally, any other eventuality that deprives him, through no fault of his own, of the means necessary for his sustenance” (n. 11).
How much work we still have ahead of us to make these words a reality, also through a serious and effective political and legislative commitment. May the solidarity and subsidiarity of so many citizens who believe in the value of voluntary commitment to giving to the poor be developed, despite the limits and sometimes the deficiencies of politics in seeing and serving the common good. It is certainly about stimulating and putting pressure so that public institutions do their duty well; but it is no use remaining passive waiting to receive everything “from above”; Those who live in conditions of poverty must also be involved and accompanied in a process of change and responsibility.
7. Unfortunately, we must once again observe new forms of poverty that are added to those described above. I think in a particular way of the populations living in war zones, especially of the children deprived of a serene present and a dignified future. No one will ever be able to get used to this situation; Let us keep alive every attempt so that peace is affirmed as a gift from the Risen Lord and the fruit of the commitment to justice and dialogue.
Nor can I forget the speculation that, in various sectors, leads to a dramatic increase in costs that makes many families even more destitute. Salaries run out quickly, forcing deprivations that threaten people's dignity. If a family must choose between food to survive and medicine to regain health, then the voice of those who claim the right to both goods must be heard, in the name of the dignity of the human person.
How can we not draw attention, furthermore, to the ethical disorder that marks the world of work? The inhuman treatment reserved for so many workers; remuneration that does not correspond to the work performed; the scourge of precariousness; excessive accident victims, often caused by a mentality that prefers immediate benefit to the detriment of safety. The words of Saint John Paul II come to mind: «The first foundation of the value of work is man himself. […] Man is destined and called to work; but, above all, work is “in function of man” and not man “in function of work”» (Letter enc. Exercising labor, 6).
8. This list, already dramatic in itself, only partially describes the situations of poverty that are part of our daily lives. I cannot overlook, in particular, a mode of suffering that is becoming more evident every day and that affects the world of youth. How many frustrated lives and even suicides of young people, deceived by a culture that leads them to feel “incomplete” and “failures.” Let us help them react to these harmful instigations, so that each one can find the path to follow to acquire a strong and generous identity.
It is easy, when talking about the poor, to fall into rhetoric. It is also an insidious temptation to stay focused on statistics and numbers. The poor are people, they have faces, stories, hearts and souls. They are brothers and sisters with their qualities and defects, like everyone, and it is important to enter into a personal relationship with each of them.
The Book of Tobias teaches us how to act concretely with and for the poor. It is a question of justice that commits us all to seek and find each other reciprocally, to promote the necessary harmony, so that a community can identify itself as such. Therefore, interest in the poor is not exhausted in hasty alms; It requires reestablishing fair interpersonal relationships that have been affected by poverty. In this way, “not turning your face away from the poor” leads to obtaining the benefits of mercy, of charity that gives meaning and value to the entire Christian life.
9. Our attention to the poor is always marked by evangelical realism. What is shared must respond to the specific needs of others, it is not about freeing oneself from what is superfluous. Also in this, discernment is necessary, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to recognize the true demands of the brothers and not our own aspirations. What they surely need most urgently is our humanity, our hearts open to love. Let us not forget: "We are called to discover Christ in them, to lend our voice to their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to interpret them and to gather the mysterious wisdom that God wants to communicate to us through them" (Exhort .ap. the gospel of joy, 198). Faith teaches us that each of the poor is a child of God and that Christ is present in him or her: "Every time they did it to the least of my brothers, they did it to me" (Mt 25,40).
10. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus. On a page of your Story of a soul wrote: «Yes, now I understand that perfect charity consists in tolerating the defects of others, in not being surprised by their weaknesses, in building oneself up from the smallest acts of virtue that we see them practice. But, above all, I understood that charity should not remain locked in the depths of the heart: No one, said Jesus, lights a lamp to put it under the bushel, but to put it on the lampstand so that it gives light to others. all those of the house. I think that this lamp represents charity, which should illuminate and cheer, not only those who are most dear to me, but also all those who are in the house, without excluding anyone" (Ms C, 12r°: Complete works, Burgos 2006, 287-288).
In this house that is the world, everyone has the right to be enlightened by charity, no one can be deprived of it. May the perseverance of Saint Therese's love inspire our hearts on this World Day, may it help us “not turn away from the poor” and to keep our gaze always fixed on the human and divine face of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Rome, Saint John Lateran, June 13, 2023, Memory of Saint Anthony of Padua, patron of the poor.
I entrust all the sick and their families to the intercession of Mary