At a number of places through the Bible we hear of a God who comes to the aid of those who call on him in their time of need. The line from Psalm 34, ‘This poor man cried and the Lord heard him’, reminds us that throughout the jubilant highs and terrible lows of life that God is always present, walking by our sides, accompanying us on our journey. On the Second World Day of the Poor, Pope Francis draws and reflects on Psalm 34 and through it calls us to accept the challenge it poses.
Sunday 18th November was the Second World Day of the Poor
Reflecting on the cry of the poor man, Pope Francis highlights the suffering that poverty brings; the pain, the isolation, the sorrow. He asks us to recognise that this poverty is all too often caused by the selfishness, pride, greed and injustice of others. Poverty as a result of injustice is certainly something that rings true for our refugee friends at JRS UK; those we accompany are subjected to forced destitution as a tool of immigration control.
However, maybe most importantly, Pope Francis reflects how the cry of the poor man is also a cry of hope. It is truly poignant that, despite this pain, so many victims of impoverishment are able to offer their cry to the Lord and place their trust in Him. Many of our refugee friends have been living in the UK for many years, much of it in this uncertain state of destitution, and are able to continue their journey thanks to an unwavering trust in a Lord that has not abandoned them. It is this resilient hope in the face of adversity which sees the poor recognised as ‘holy’ or ‘blessed’ by God; a recurring theme throughout many stories in salvation history.
“God’s act of liberation is a saving act for thos who life up to him their sorrow and distress.”
Pope Francis, World Day of the Poor 2018
The challenge to us today is to hear this cry in the same way that the Lord does. Indeed, the Holy Father states that ‘we are called to make a serious examination of conscience, to see if we are truly capable of hearing the cry of the poor’. Are we like those who tried to silence Bartimaeus, the blind man in the famous Gospel story, Pope Francis asks? Do we seek to silence the poor, keep them out of sight and mind, view them as a challenge to our safety and security? Are we indifferent or ignorant to their cries?
‘Not I?’ we might say, ‘I help the poor in many ways!’. But Pope Francis presses further. Do our efforts to assist those in poverty come more from a wish to satisfy our own need to feel like we are a good person? Do we create opportunities to really honour the person in front of us with loving attentiveness? Are we really listening to them and their needs, seeking their best interests?
“As you did it to one of the least of thse my brethren, you did it to me.”
Pope Francis offers the World Day of the Poor as a day of reflection and of true celebration, a chance for a joyful rediscovery of our capacity for togetherness. Pope Francis gives this opportunity to the whole Church, spelling out the true meaning of this day when he reminds us ‘we are called to honour the poor and give them precedence, out of the conviction that they are a true presence of Jesus in our midst’.
So let us take this opportunity as a chance to reflect on how we are currently helping, and to take up this challenge to truly listen to the poor so as to help them better. Let us use this day to celebrate and honour those who may be materially poor, but have a far greater wealth which we can experience through friendship with them. Let us use this day as a starting point to building a Church and a society that is more capable of bringing the healing power of the Lord to a world that is in great need of it.