Pope Francis led Mass today in St Peter, the second World Day of the Poor. Some 6,000 poor people were present, along with volunteers, assistants, and representatives of charities. Working for the poor “is not a sociological option; it is a theological requirement”. For the pontiff, “Injustice is the perverse root of poverty. The daily cry of the poor becomes stronger but heard less.” Conversely, “Jesus demands [. . .] to give to those who have nothing to give back, to love gratuitously.”
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis spoke today to the assembly gathered in St Peter’s Basilica for the second World Day of the Poor, which he established. The event had been announced in a message released last June, titled 'This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him’.
In his address, the pontiff raised a key issue: “In the face of contempt for human dignity, we often remain with arms folded or stretched out as a sign of our frustration before the grim power of evil. Yet we Christians cannot stand with arms folded in indifference, or with arms outstretched in helplessness. No. As believers, we must stretch out our hands, as Jesus does with us.
Some 6,000 poor people were present at the Mass, concelebrated by cardinals and bishops, together with volunteers, assistants and representatives of various charities.
From the start of his pontificate, Francis’s commitment to the poor has been a fundamental element for evangelisation in today's world. Because of this, he has been sometimes criticised, accused of being "Marxist".
In the homily, the Holy Father stressed “why it is important for all of us to live our faith in contact with those in need. This is not a sociological option; it is a theological requirement. It entails acknowledging that we are beggars pleading for salvation, brothers and sisters of all, but especially of the poor whom the Lord loves. In this way, we embrace the spirit of the Gospel. ‘The spirit of poverty and of love – says the Council – is in fact the glory and witness of the Church of Christ’ (Gaudium et Spes, 88).”
Listening to the cry of the poor is an urgency that comes from faith and the situation of society. Francis lists and denounces this cry, which “is the stifled cry of the unborn, of starving children, of young people more used to the explosion of bombs than happy shouts of the playground. It is the cry of the elderly, cast off and abandoned to themselves. It is the cry of all those who face the storms of life without the presence of a friend. It is the cry of all those forced to flee their homes and native land for an uncertain future. It is the cry of entire peoples, deprived even of the great natural resources at their disposal. It is the cry of all those Lazaruses who weep while the wealthy few feast on what, in justice, belongs to all. Injustice is the perverse root of poverty. The cry of the poor daily becomes stronger but heard less, drowned out by the din of the rich few, who grow ever fewer and richer.”
The effectiveness of the commitment to the poor depends on our imitation of what Jesus did for us. For this reason, Pope Francis, referring to today's Gospel (Dedication of the Basilica of St Peter, Matthew, 14: 22-33), underlined the “three things Jesus does in today’s Gospel".
First of all, “he ‘leaves’. He leaves the crowds at the height of success, acclaimed for his multiplication of the loaves. [. . .] He teaches us the courage to leave: to leave behind the success that swells the heart and the tranquillity that deadens the soul. To go where? To God by praying, and to those in need by loving. These are the true treasures in life: God and our neighbour. And this is the road Jesus tells us to take: to go up to God and to come down to our brothers and sisters.
“The second thing: in the heart of the night, Jesus reassures. He goes to his disciples, in the dark, walking ‘on the sea’ (v. 25). The “sea” in this case was really a lake, but the idea of the ‘sea’, with its murky depths, evokes the forces of evil. Jesus, in effect, goes to meet his disciples by trampling on the malign foes of humanity. And this is the meaning of the sign: rather than a triumphant display of power, it is a revelation of the reassuring certainty that Jesus, and Jesus alone, triumphs over our greatest enemies: the devil, sin, death and fear. Today, and to us, he says: ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid’ (v. 27).”
“The third thing Jesus does: in the midst of the storm, he stretches out his hand (cf. v. 31). He takes hold of Peter who, in his fear and doubt, was sinking, and cried out: “Lord, save me!” (v. 30).”
“The Lord stretches out his hand, freely and not out of duty. [. . .] Jesus demands [. . .] to give to those who have nothing to give back, to love gratuitously (cf. Lk 6:32-36). Let us look around in our own day. For all that we do, do we ever do anything completely for free, something for a person who cannot repay us?”
Lastly, “Stretch out your hand to us, Lord, and take hold of us. Help us to love as you love. Teach us to leave behind all that is passing, to be a source of reassurance to those around us, and to give freely to all those in need. Amen.”