*Let us love, not with words but with DEEDS*
Pope Francis is asking all Christians to welcome the poor into their homes
for lunch on November 19, 2017, to celebrate the first World Day of the
Poor, the Vatican announced today.
The announcement came this morning, as Archbishop Rino Fisichella,
president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New
Evangelization, presented the pope’s message
the First World Day of the Poor, called:* Let us love, not with words but
Asked during the press briefing how normal families can translate the
pope’s message into a way of life, Archbishop Fisichella said the first
step is to transform the way we think about the poor.
“The poor are not a problem; they are a resource from which to draw as we
strive to accept and practice in our lives the essence of the Gospel,” he
said, quoting the final lines of the pope’s message.
“When you give alms, do you give a coin with two fingers and move on, or do
you take the hand of the poor person?” Archbishop Fisichella asked. We need
to be ready to “grasp his hand” and “take interest in the other,” realizing
that he or she is a “brother or sister,” he said.
The archbishop also said Pope Francis is calling Christians to concrete
action for the poor.
“The Pope is inviting us to open our homes to the poor for lunch,” he said.
Archbishop Fisichella explained that, after celebrating Holy Mass in St.
Peter’s Basilica on Sunday, November 19, with the poor and volunteers, Pope
Francis will host at least 500 poor people at a luncheon in the Paul VI
All those attending the Sunday Mass will be hosted around the city of Rome,
*By Courtesy Aleteia
1. “Little children, let us not love in word or speech, but in deed and in
truth” (*1 Jn* 3:18). These words of the Apostle John voice an imperative
that no Christian may disregard. The seriousness with which the “beloved
disciple” hands down Jesus’ command to our own day is made even clearer by
the contrast between the *empty words* so frequently on our lips and
deeds* against which we are called to measure ourselves. Love has no
alibi. Whenever we set out to love as Jesus loved, we have to take the
Lord as our example; especially when it comes to loving the poor. The Son
of God’s way of loving is well-known, and John spells it out clearly. It
stands on two pillars: God loved us first (cf. *1 Jn* 4:10.19), and he
loved us by giving completely of himself, even to laying down his life (cf. *1
Such love cannot go unanswered. Even though offered unconditionally,
asking nothing in return, it so sets hearts on fire that all who experience
it are led to love back, despite their limitations and sins. Yet this can
only happen if we welcome God’s grace, his merciful charity, as fully as
possible into our hearts, so that our will and even our emotions are drawn
to love both God and neighbour. In this way, the mercy that wells up – as
it were – from the heart of the Trinity can shape our lives and bring forth
compassion and works of mercy for the benefit of our brothers and sisters
2. “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him” (*Ps* 34:6). The Church
has always understood the importance of this cry. We possess an
outstanding testimony to this in the very first pages of the Acts of the
Apostles, where Peter asks that seven men, “full of the Spirit and of
wisdom” (6:3), be chosen for the ministry of caring for the poor. This is
certainly one of the first signs of the entrance of the Christian community
upon the world’s stage: the service of the poor. The earliest community
realized that being a disciple of Jesus meant demonstrating fraternity and
solidarity, in obedience to the Master’s proclamation that the poor are
*blessed* and *heirs* to the Kingdom of heaven (cf. *Mt *5:3).
“They sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any
had need” (*Acts* 2:45). In these words, we see clearly expressed the
lively concern of the first Christians. The evangelist Luke, who more than
any other speaks of mercy, does not exaggerate when he describes the
practice of sharing in the early community. On the contrary, his words are
addressed to believers in every generation, and thus also to us, in order
to sustain our own witness and to encourage our care for those most in
need. The same message is conveyed with similar conviction by the Apostle
James. In his Letter, he spares no words: “Listen, my beloved brethren.
Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and
heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you
have dishonoured the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you, and
drag you into court? … What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he
has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or
sister is poorly clothed and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to
them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled”, without giving them the things
needed for the body; what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has
not works, is dead’ (2:5-6.14-17).
3. Yet there have been times when Christians have not fully heeded this
appeal, and have assumed a worldly way of thinking. Yet the Holy Spirit
has not failed to call them to keep their gaze fixed on what is
essential. He has raised up men and women who, in a variety of ways, have
devoted their lives to the service of the poor. Over these two thousand
years, how many pages of history have been written by Christians who, in
utter simplicity and humility, and with generous and creative charity, have
served their poorest brothers and sisters!
The most outstanding example is that of Francis of Assisi, followed by many
other holy men and women over the centuries. He was not satisfied to
*embrace* lepers and give them *alms*, but chose to go to Gubbio to *stay* with
them. He saw this meeting as the turning point of his conversion: “When I
was in my sins, it seemed a thing too bitter to look on lepers, and the
Lord himself led me among them and I showed them mercy. And when I left
them, what had seemed bitter to me was changed into sweetness of mind and
body” (*Text* 1-3: *FF* 110). This testimony shows the transformative
power of charity and the Christian way of life.
We may think of the poor simply as the beneficiaries of our occasional
volunteer work, or of impromptu acts of generosity that appease our
conscience. However good and useful such acts may be for making us
sensitive to people’s needs and the injustices that are often their cause,
they ought to lead to a true *encounter* with the poor and a *sharing *that
becomes a way of life. Our prayer and our journey of discipleship and
conversion find the confirmation of their evangelic authenticity in
precisely such charity and sharing. This way of life gives rise to joy and
peace of soul, because we touch with our own hands the* flesh of Christ*.
If we truly wish to encounter Christ, we have to touch his body in the
suffering bodies of the poor, as a response to the sacramental communion
bestowed in the Eucharist. The Body of Christ, broken in the sacred
liturgy, can be seen, through charity and sharing, in the faces and persons
of the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters. Saint John
Chrysostom’s admonition remains ever timely: “If you want to honour the
body of Christ, do not scorn it when it is naked; do not honour the
Eucharistic Christ with silk vestments, and then, leaving the church,
neglect the other Christ suffering from cold and nakedness” (*Hom. in
Matthaeum*, 50.3: PG 58).
We are called, then, to draw near to the poor, to encounter them, to meet
their gaze, to embrace them and to let them feel the warmth of love that
breaks through their solitude. Their outstretched hand is also an
invitation to step out of our certainties and comforts, and to acknowledge
the value of poverty in itself.
4. Let us never forget that, for Christ’s disciples, poverty is above
all a *call
to follow Jesus in his own poverty*. It means walking behind him and
beside him, a journey that leads to the beatitude of the Kingdom of heaven
(cf. *Mt* 5:3; *Lk* 6:20). Poverty means having a humble heart that
accepts our creaturely limitations and sinfulness and thus enables us to
overcome the temptation to feel omnipotent and immortal. Poverty is an
interior attitude that avoids looking upon money, career and luxury as our
goal in life and the condition for our happiness. Poverty instead creates
the conditions for freely shouldering our personal and social
responsibilities, despite our limitations, with trust in God’s closeness
and the support of his grace. Poverty, understood in this way, is the
yardstick that allows us to judge how best to use material goods and to
build relationships that are neither selfish nor possessive (cf. *Catechism
of the Catholic Church*, Nos. 25-45).
Let us, then, take as our example Saint Francis and his witness of
authentic poverty. Precisely because he kept his gaze fixed on Christ,
Francis was able to see and serve him in the poor. If we want to help
change history and promote real development, we need to hear the cry of the
poor and commit ourselves to ending their marginalization. At the same
time, I ask the poor in our cities and our communities not to lose the
sense of evangelical poverty that is part of their daily life.
5. We know how hard it is for our contemporary world to see poverty clearly
for what it is. Yet in myriad ways poverty challenges us daily, in faces
marked by suffering, marginalization, oppression, violence, torture and
imprisonment, war, deprivation of freedom and dignity, ignorance and
illiteracy, medical emergencies and shortage of work, trafficking and
slavery, exile, extreme poverty and forced migration. Poverty has the face
of women, men and children exploited by base interests, crushed by the
machinations of power and money. 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. Faced
with this scenario, we cannot remain passive, much less resigned. There is
a poverty that stifles the spirit of initiative of so many young people by
keeping them from finding work. There is a poverty that dulls the sense of
personal responsibility and leaves others to do the work while we go
looking for favours. There is a poverty that poisons the wells of
participation and allows little room for professionalism; in this way it
demeans the merit of those who do work and are productive. To all these
forms of poverty we must respond with a new vision of life and society.
All the poor – as Blessed Paul VI loved to say – belong to the Church by
“evangelical right” (*Address at the Opening of the Second Session of the
Second Vatican Ecumenical Council*, 29 September 1963), and require of us a
fundamental option on their behalf. Blessed, therefore, are the open hands
that embrace the poor and help them: they are hands that bring hope.
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.
6. At the conclusion of the Jubilee of Mercy, I wanted to offer the Church
a *World Day of the Poor*, so that throughout the world Christian
communities can become an ever greater sign of Christ’s charity for the
least and those most in need. To the World Days instituted by my
Predecessors, which are already a tradition in the life of our communities,
I wish to add this one, which adds to them an exquisitely evangelical
fullness, that is, Jesus’ preferential love for the poor.
I invite the whole Church, and men and women of good will everywhere, to
turn their gaze on this day to all those who stretch out their hands and
plead for our help and solidarity. They are our brothers and sisters,
created and loved by the one Heavenly Father. This *Day* is meant, above
all, to encourage believers to react against a culture of discard and
waste, and to embrace the culture of encounter. At the same time,
everyone, independent of religious affiliation, is invited to openness and
sharing with the poor through concrete signs of solidarity and fraternity.
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.
7. It is my wish that, in the week preceding the World Day of the Poor,
which falls this year on 19 November, the Thirty-third Sunday of Ordinary
Time, Christian communities will make every effort to create moments of
encounter and friendship, solidarity and concrete assistance. They can
invite the poor and volunteers to take part together in the Eucharist on
this Sunday, in such a way that there be an even more authentic celebration
of the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King, on the following
Sunday. The kingship of Christ is most evident on Golgotha, when the
Innocent One, nailed to the cross, poor, naked and stripped of everything,
incarnates and reveals the fullness of God’s love. Jesus’ complete
abandonment to the Father expresses his utter poverty and reveals the power
of the Love that awakens him to new life on the day of the Resurrection.
This Sunday, if there are poor people where we live who seek protection and
assistance, let us draw close to them: it will be a favourable moment to
encounter the God we seek. Following the teaching of Scripture (cf. *Gen*
18:3-5; *Heb* 13:2), let us welcome them as honoured guests at our table;
they can be teachers who help us live the faith more consistently. With
their trust and readiness to receive help, they show us in a quiet and
often joyful way, how essential it is to live simply and to abandon
ourselves to God’s providence.
8. At the heart of all the many concrete initiatives carried out on this
day should always be *prayer*. Let us not forget that the *Our Father* is
the prayer of the poor. Our asking for bread expresses our entrustment to
God for our basic needs in life. Everything that Jesus taught us in this
prayer expresses and brings together the cry of all who suffer from life’s
uncertainties and the lack of what they need. When the disciples asked
Jesus to teach them to pray, he answered in the words with which the poor
speak to our one Father, in whom all acknowledge themselves as brothers and
sisters. The *Our Father* is a prayer said in the plural: the bread for
which we ask is “ours”, and that entails sharing, participation and joint
responsibility. In this prayer, all of us recognize our need to overcome
every form of selfishness, in order to enter into the joy of mutual
9. I ask my brother Bishops, and all priests and deacons who by their
vocation have the mission of supporting the poor, together with all
consecrated persons and all associations, movements and volunteers
everywhere, to help make this *World Day of the Poor* a tradition that
concretely contributes to evangelization in today’s world.
This new *World Day*, therefore, should become a powerful appeal to our
consciences as believers, allowing us to grow in the conviction that
sharing with the poor enables us to understand the deepest truth of the
Gospel. The poor are not a problem: they are a resource from which to draw
as we strive to accept and practise in our lives the essence of the Gospel.
*From the Vatican, 13 June 2017*
Memorial of Saint Anthony of Padua
*By Courtesy The Vatican