Pope: Drop the ‘Phobia of the Poor’
How is it that God in heaven can hear the cries of the poor, but so many people watching or standing nearby either cannot or just do not care, Pope Francis asked.
People must make “a serious examination of conscience to understand whether we are really capable of listening to the poor,” the pope said in a message for World Day of the Poor, observed this year on November 18.
The recently established commemoration and the period of reflection and action preceding it are meant to give Christians a chance to follow Christ’s example and concretely share a moment of love, hope and respect together with those in need in one’s community, the pope said.
World Day of the Poor—marked each year on the 33rd Sunday of ordinary time—focuses on a verse from Psalm 34, “This poor one cried out and the Lord heard.”
“We can ask ourselves, how is it this cry, which reaches all the way to God, is unable to penetrate our ears and leaves us indifferent and impassive?” the pope asked.
The Suffering of the Poor
To become aware of people’s suffering and know how best to respond with love, people must learn to be silent and listen, he said.
“If we speak too much ourselves, we will be unable to hear them,” he said.
That is often what happens when otherwise important and needed initiatives are carried out more as a way to please oneself “than to really acknowledge the cry of the poor”, he said.
“We are so entrapped in a culture which forces us to look in the mirror” and unduly “pamper ourselves”, he said. Such people come to believe their act of altruism is enough without having to feel any empathy or the need to sacrifice or “endanger” themselves directly.
Nobody seeks poverty or its many forms, which include marginalisation, persecution and injustice, the pope said.
Poverty “is caused by selfishness, pride, greed and injustice. These are evils as old as humanity, but also sins in which the innocents are caught up, leading to consequences on the social level, which are dramatic”, he said.
“God’s answer to the poor is always an intervention of salvation in order to heal the wounds of body and soul, restore justice and assist in beginning anew to live life with dignity. God’s answer is also an appeal in order that those who believe in him can do the same,” Pope Francis added.
Serving the Poor
World Day of the Poor is meant to be a small contribution that the whole Church can make so the poor may know their cries have not gone unheard, the pope said in his message.
“It is like a drop of water in the desert of poverty; and yet it can be a sign of sharing for those who are in need, that they might experience the active presence of a brother or a sister,” he said.
This encounter is a call for personal involvement, not delegation to others, he said. And it is not cold, distant giving, but an act that requires “loving attentiveness” just like God offers everyone.
So many people in need are seeking the meaning of their existence and a response to their questions about “why they have fallen so far and how they can escape! They are waiting for someone to come up and say, ‘Take heart; rise, he is calling you,’” the pope said.
Unfortunately, people are often repelled by, not drawn to the poor, he said. The cries of the poor are often met with rebuke and they are told “to shut up and put up”.
There is a real “phobia of the poor”, who are seen not only as destitute, but also as carriers of “insecurity and instability”, to be rejected and kept afar.
But this tendency to create a distance means “people distance themselves from Jesus himself”.
The Church should give freely with an attitude of humility, “without seeking the limelight”, he said.
“In serving the poor, the last thing we need is a battle for first place,” he said. The poor don’t need heroes, but a love which knows how to remain hidden from worldly recognition, the pope said.—CNS