On World Day of the Poor, Pope Francis spoke of the poor as “the gatekeepers of Heaven” who make access to God who is love easier. He warned against the temptation of “haste” and “everything right now”, which makes us think as “useless” and “disposable” those who are left behind: “elderly, unborn, disabled and poor persons". We are tempted to speak “the language of the self” and not “the language of Jesus”, which is “the language of the you”. “Do I, a Christian, have at least one poor person as a friend?”
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis marked the 3rd World Day of the Poor celebrating Mass this morning in St Peter’s Basilica, which he instituted at the end of the 2016 Jubilee of Mercy.
In his homily, he said that “Standing with the poor, serving the poor, we see things as Jesus does; we see what remains and what passes away.” Some poor, destitute and migrant people sat in sectors of the basilica, accompanied by volunteers and members of charitable organisations.
In his address, the Pope explained the value of the Day of the Poor with the Sunday Gospel (33rd day in ordinary time, C, Luke 21:.5-19), in which Jesus announces the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, along with wars and disasters.
“To us,” said the pontiff, “these are front page news, but the Lord puts them on the second page. That which will never pass away remains on the front page: the living God, infinitely greater than any temple we build for him, and the human person, our neighbour, who is worth more than all the news reports of the world.”
For Francis, we must keep away from two temptations. “The first is the temptation of haste, of the right now. [. . .] This haste, this everything right now, does not come from God. If we get worked up about the right now, we forget what remains forever: we follow the passing clouds and lose sight of the sky. Drawn by the latest outcry, we no longer find time for God or for our brother and sister living next door. How true this is today! In the frenzy of running, of achieving everything right now, anyone left behind is viewed as a nuisance. And considered disposable. How many elderly, unborn, disabled and poor persons are considered useless. We go our way in haste, without worrying that gaps are increasing, that the greed of a few is adding to the poverty of many others.
“As an antidote to haste, Jesus today proposes to each of us perseverance. ‘By your endurance you will gain your lives’ (v. 19). Perseverance entails moving forward each day with our eyes fixed on what does not pass away: the Lord and our neighbour.”
The second temptation or “illusion”, that “of self-centredness. Christians, since we do not seek the right now but the forever, are not concerned with the me but with the you. Christians, that is, do not follow the siren song of their whims, but rather the call of love, the voice of Jesus. [. . . ] We need to speak the same language as Jesus: that of love, the language of the you. Those who speak the language of Jesus are not the ones who say I, but rather the ones who step out of themselves. And yet how often, even when we do good, does the hypocrisy of the self take over? I do good so that I can be considered good; I give in order to receive in turn; I offer help so that I can win the friendship of some important person. That is how the language of the self speaks. The word of God, however, spurs us to a “genuine love” (Rom 12:9), to give to those who cannot repay us (cf. Lk 14:14), to serve others without seeking anything in return (cf. Lk 6:35). So let us ask ourselves: ‘Do I help someone who has nothing to give me in return? Do I, a Christian, have at least one poor person as a friend?’
“The poor are valuable in the eyes of God because they do not speak the language of the self: they do not support themselves on their own, by their own strength; they need someone to take them by the hand. The poor remind us how we should live the Gospel: like beggars reaching out to God. The presence of the poor makes us breathe the fresh air of the Gospel, where the poor in spirit are blessed (cf. Mt 5:3). Instead of feeling annoyed when they knock on our doors, let us welcome their cry for help as a summons to go out of ourselves, to welcome them with God’s own loving gaze. How beautiful it would be if the poor could occupy in our hearts the place they have in the heart of God! Standing with the poor, serving the poor, we see things as Jesus does; we see what remains and what passes away.
“Let us return to our initial questions. Amid so many penultimate and passing realities, the Lord wants to remind us today of what is ultimate, what will remain forever. It is love, for ‘God is love’ (1 Jn 4:8). The poor person who begs for my love leads me straight to God. The poor facilitate our access to heaven: this is why the sense of the faith of God’s People has viewed them as the gatekeepers of heaven. Even now, they are our treasure, the treasure of the Church. For the poor reveal to us the riches that never grow old, that unite heaven and earth, the riches for which life is truly worth living: the riches of love.”