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In 2017, Pope Francis named the Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time as the World Day of the Poor. It comes on the Sunday before we celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe and take up a second collection to support the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.
Throughout his pontificate, Pope Francis has drawn our attention to the poor. He challenges us to examine our lives in relation to the poor of this world. He encourages us to respond to Jesus’ invitation to see him in the face of the poor. In Jesus’ teaching about the judgment of the nations, Jesus identifies himself with the poor: “Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me” (Matthew 25:45). In the story of Saul’s conversion, Jesus identifies himself with his persecuted followers: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5).
In Pope Francis’s message for the Third World Day of the Poor, he writes:
- “Jesus was not afraid to identify with each of them. . . . If we refuse to make this identification, we falsify the Gospel and water down God’s revelation” (5).
- “Certainly, the poor come to us also because we give them food, but what they really need is more than our offer of a warm meal or a sandwich. The poor need our hands, to be lifted up; our hearts, to feel anew the warmth of affection; our presence, to overcome loneliness. In a word, they need love” (8).
- “The poor are persons to be encountered; they are lonely, young and old . . . ; men women and children who look for a friendly word. The poor save us because they enable us to encounter the face of Jesus Christ” (9).
Let us pray . . . Dear Jesus, help us to open our eyes and hearts and hands to the poor in our midst and in the wider world. As we strive to follow you, help us to tame our own wants with gratitude that turns what we have into enough. Amen.
Image credit: Sean SPRAGUE/CIRIC