06 Message of Pope Francis on the Second World Day of the Poor

posted Nov 14, 2018, 8:20 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Nov 14, 2018, 8:21 AM ]
The event is scheduled for November 18, 2018.

"This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him." (Ps 34:6) The words of the Psalmist become our own, whenever we are called to encounter the different conditions of suffering and marginalisation experienced by so many of our brothers and sisters whom we are accustomed to label generically as "the poor".

Psalm 34 uses three verbs to describe the poor man in his relationship with God. First of all, "to cry". Poverty cannot be summed up in a word; it becomes a cry that rises to heaven and reaches God. What does the cry of the poor express, if not their suffering and their solitude, their disappointment and their hope? We can ask ourselves how their plea, which rises to the presence of God, can fail to reach our own ears, or leave us cold and indifferent. On this World Day of the Poor, we are called to make a serious examination of conscience, to see if we are truly capable of hearing the cry of the poor.

To hear their voice, what we need is the silence of people who are prepared to listen. If we speak too much ourselves, we will be unable to hear them. At times, I fear that many initiatives, meritorious and necessary in themselves, are meant more to satisfy those who undertake them, than to respond to the real cry of the poor. When this is the case, the cry of the poor resounds, but our reaction is inconsistent, and we become unable to empathise with their condition. We are so trapped in a culture that induces us to look in the mirror and pamper ourselves, that we think that an altruistic gesture is enough without the need to get directly involved.

The second verb is "to answer". The Psalmist tells us that the Lord does not only listen to the cry of the poor, but responds. His answer, as seen in the entire history of salvation, is to share lovingly in the lot of the poor. So it was when Abram spoke to God of his desire for offspring, despite the fact that he and his wife Sarah were old in years and had no children (cf. Gen 15:1-6). So too when Moses, in front of a bush that burned without being consumed, received the revelation of God's name and the mission to free his people from Egypt (Ex 3:1-15). This was also the case during Israel's wandering in the desert, in the grip of hunger and thirst (cf. Ex 16:1-6; 17:1-7), and its falling into the worst kind of poverty, namely, infidelity to the covenant and idolatry (cf. Ex 32:1-14).