Pope: the option for the poor, is a "priority" for Christians

Message for the Third World Day of the Poor on the theme "The hope of the poor shall not perish forever". " Their social promotion, is not foreign to the proclamation of the Gospel. On the contrary, it manifests the realism of Christian faith and its historical validity." From the poor a "saving force".

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The poor "are people to meet", men, women and children who "await a friendly word", a sign of hope, but at the same time " The poor save us because they enable us to encounter the face of Jesus Christ". Poverty and indigence have "a saving force" that " saving power which excludes no one and involves everyone in a real journey pilgrimage of conversion, to recognize the poor and to love them " writes Pope Francis in his message for the third World Day of the Poor.

This year the World Day falls this year on November 17, with the has the theme " The hope of the poor shall not perish forever". Francis hopes this global initiative " encourage more and more people to cooperate effectively so that no one will feel deprived of closeness and solidarity ".

The theme chosen by the Pope is taken from the Psalm (Ps 9,19) and are words that " express a profound truth that faith impresses above all on the hearts of the poor, restoring lost hope in the face of injustice, sufferings and the uncertainties of life. ".

The document recalls the " many new forms of bondage that enslave millions of men, women, young people and children. Daily we encounter families forced to leave their homeland to seek a living elsewhere; orphans who have lost their parents or were violently torn from them by brutal means of exploitation; young people seeking professional fulfilment but prevented from employment by shortsighted economic policies; victims of different kinds of violence, ranging from prostitution to the narcotics trade, and profoundly demeaned. How can we overlook, too, the millions of immigrants who fall victim to any number of concealed interests, often exploited for political advantage, and are refused solidarity and equality? And all the homeless and ostracized persons who roam the streets of our cities?". "A multitude of poor people often maligned and barely tolerated. They become for all effects invisible and their voice is no longer heard or heeded in society. Men and women who are increasingly strangers amid our houses and outcasts in our neighborhoods”.

The poor, however, in the words of the Psalm "is he who" are those who “put their trust in the Lord” (cf. v. 10), in the certainty that they will never be forsaken. In the Scriptures, the poor are those who trust! The Psalmist also gives the reason for this trust: they “know” the Lord (cf. ibid.). In the language of the Bible, such “knowledge” involves a personal relationship of affection and love".

A poor man, writes Francis, " the poor will never find God indifferent or silent in the face of their plea. God is the one who renders justice and does not forget (cf. Ps 40:18; 70:6); he is their refuge and he never fails to come to their assistance (cf. Ps 10:14). We can build any number of walls and close our doors in the vain effort to feel secure in our wealth, at the expense of those left outside. It will not be that way for ever. The “day of the Lord”, as described by the prophets (cf. Am 5:18; Is 2-5; Jl 1-3), will destroy the barriers created between nations and replace the arrogance of the few with the solidarity of many. The marginalization painfully experienced by millions of persons cannot go on for long. Their cry is growing louder and embraces the entire earth. In the words of Father Primo Mazzolari: “the poor are a constant protest against our injustices; the poor are a powder keg. If it is set on fire, the world will explode”.

The poor are "the oppressed, the humble, the one who is prostrate on the ground", yet "Jesus was not afraid of identifying himself with each of them". It is no coincidence that the Beatitudes begin with "Blessed are the poor ...". " Yet Jesus who inaugurated his kingdom by placing the poor at the centre…he has entrusted to us, his disciples, the task of carrying it forward with responsibility for giving hope to the poor. Especially at times like our own, there is a need to revive hope and to restore confidence. This responsibility is not something that the Christian community may underestimate. The credibility of our proclamation and the witness of Christians depends on it. ”.

"In closeness to the poor, the Church comes to realize that she is one people, spread throughout many nations and called to ensure that no one feels a stranger or outcast, for she includes everyone in a shared journey of salvation". "The social promotion of the poor is not an external commitment to the proclamation of the Gospel; on the contrary, it shows the realism of the Christian faith and its historical validity". For this reason the option for the least is "a priority choice" that Christians are called to do "so as not to betray the credibility of the Church and give active hope to so many defenseless".

"The involvement of Christians in this World Day of the Poor and especially in the events of everyday life, goes beyond initiatives of assistance. Praiseworthy and necessary as the latter may be, they should have the goal of encouraging in everyone a greater concern for individuals in any kind of distress. “Loving attentiveness is the beginning of true concern” (Evangelii Gaudium, 199) for the poor and the promotion of their genuine welfare. It is not easy to be witnesses of Christian hope in the context of a consumerist culture, a culture of waste concerned only for the spread of a shallow and ephemeral wellbeing. A change of mentality is needed, in order to rediscover what is essential and to give substance and verve to the preaching of the kingdom of God. Hope is also communicated by the sense of fulfilment born of accompanying the poor not for a brief moment of enthusiasm, but through a constant commitment over time. The poor acquire genuine hope, not from seeing us gratified by giving them a few moments of our time, but from recognizing in our sacrifice an act of gratuitous love that seeks no reward.”

The Pope then thanks the volunteers, engaged in many initiatives and encourages them to continue their efforts even overcoming “set aside the divisions born of ideological and political positions, and instead fix our gaze on what is essential, on what does not call for a flood of words, but a gaze of love and an outstretched hand. ”.

"Before all else, the poor need God and his love, made visible by “the saints next door”, people who by the simplicity of their lives express clearly the power of Christian love. God uses any number of ways and countless means to reach people’s hearts. Certainly, the poor come to us also because we give them food, but what they really need is more than our offer of a warm meal or a sandwich. The poor need our hands, to be lifted up; our hearts, to feel anew the warmth of affection; our presence, to overcome loneliness. In a word, they need love." (FP)