November 17, 2019

Today, the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, is The World Day of the Poor. Pope Francis designated this Sunday two years ago as a day in which we would reflect each year on those who are poor and on our obligation to serve them. On the occasion of this day, the Pope sends a message to encourage us to see our relationship with poor people as vital for our own spiritual health.

The Pope writes that, “Scripture constantly speaks of God acting on behalf of the poor. He is the one who ‘hears their cry’ and ‘comes to their aid’; he ‘protects’ and ‘defends’ them; he ‘rescues’ and ‘saves’ them… Indeed, the poor will never find God indifferent or silent in the face of their plea. God is the one who renders justice and does not forget (cf. Ps 40:18; 70:6); he is their refuge and he never fails to come to their assistance (cf. Ps 10:14)” (#4).

Pope Francis points out that “We can never elude the urgent appeal that Scripture makes on behalf of the poor. Wherever we look, the word of God points to the poor, those who lack the necessities of life because they depend on others. They are the oppressed, the lowly and the downcast. Yet, faced with countless throngs of the poor, Jesus was not afraid to identify with each of them: ‘Whatever you did to one of the least of these my brethren, you did to me’ (Mt 25:40). If we refuse to make this identification, we falsify the Gospel and water down God’s revelation. The God that Jesus came to reveal is a Father who is generous, merciful, unfailing in his goodness and grace. He gives hope especially to those who are disillusioned and lacking in hope for the future” (#5).

This fundamental element of our scriptural tradition makes clear that our care for the poor is not optional. In our mission here at St. Joseph to love God, love our neighbor and make disciples, we strive to live the call to love our neighbor in practical outreach to those who are poor.

Our support of the annual St. Vincent de Paul Food Drive now underway, our Giving Tree project which will start in a couple of weeks, our service at the Winter Hospitality Overflow Shelter that begins on December 8, and our hosting Project Homeless Connect in January are a few examples of how we, as a parish community, strive to respond to the Biblical demand to serve those who are in need.

The Pope directly addresses all those who volunteer in these and other ways to help the poor. “I ask the many volunteers, who merit recognition for being the first to see the importance of such concern for the poor, to persevere in their dedicated service…Before all else, the poor need God and his love, made visible by ‘the saints next door’, people who by the simplicity of their lives express clearly the power of Christian love. God uses any number of ways and countless means to reach people’s hearts. 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).

Such love for those who are poor can give them hope and can save us. Relationship with those who are poor is so central to our life of faith that without them in our lives it is hard to see how we can recognize Jesus. “The poor are persons to be encountered; they are lonely, young and old, to be invited to our homes to share a meal; 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).

May this World Day of the Poor, and our encounter with those in need in our community, enable us to see the face of Jesus Christ.

God Bless,
Fr. Gary Lazzeroni