By CAROL GLATZ, Catholic News Service | Published June 23, 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS)—People cannot sit back and be indifferent or unresponsive to growing poverty in the world as a privileged minority accumulates “ostentatious wealth,” Pope Francis said.
“God created the heavens and the earth for all; yet sadly some have erected barriers, walls and fences, betraying the original gift meant for all humanity, with none excluded,” the pope said in a message for the first World Day of the Poor.
The newly established commemoration and the period of reflection and action preceding it are meant to help Christians develop and maintain a more consistent and sincere lifestyle built on sharing, simplicity and the essential truths of the Gospel, the pope said in the message released June 13, the feast of St. Anthony of Padua.
The World Day of the Poor—to be marked each year on the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time—will be celebrated Nov. 19 this year and will focus on the Apostle John’s call to love “not with words, but with deeds.”
There are so many forms of material and spiritual poverty that poison people’s hearts and harm their dignity, the pope said in his message, and “we must respond with a new vision of life and society.”
Too often Christians have taken on “a worldly way of thinking” and forgotten to keep their gaze and goals focused on Christ, who is present in those who are broken and vulnerable.
“Scandalous growth of poverty”
An admonition by St. John Chrysostom “remains ever timely,” the pope said, quoting: “If you want to honor the body of Christ, do not scorn it when it is naked; do not honor the eucharistic Christ with silk vestments and then, leaving the church, neglect the other Christ suffering from cold and nakedness.”
“Poverty has the face of women, men and children exploited by base interests, crushed by the machinations of power and money,” he said. “What a bitter and endless list we would have to compile were we to add the poverty born of social injustice, moral degeneration, the greed of a chosen few and generalized indifference.”
“Tragically, in our own time, even as ostentatious wealth accumulates in the hands of the privileged few, often in connection with illegal activities and the appalling exploitation of human dignity, there is a scandalous growth of poverty in broad sectors of society throughout our world,” Pope Francis wrote. “Faced with this scenario, we cannot remain passive, much less resigned.”
Christians must reach out to the poor as Christ did and commanded, the pope said. The poor, in fact, “are not a problem, they are a resource” rich in dignity and God-given gifts that can help Christians better understand the essential truth of the Gospel.
“Blessed, therefore, are the open hands that embrace the poor and help them: They are hands that bring hope,” he said. “Blessed are the hands that reach beyond every barrier of culture, religion and nationality and pour the balm of consolation over the wounds of humanity. Blessed are the open hands that ask nothing in exchange, with no ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’ or ‘maybes’: They are hands that call down God’s blessing upon their brothers and sisters.”