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First World Day of the Poor - 19 November 2017

Fr. Joseph Santiago CMF - Thu, Nov 16th 2017


Pope Francis established the World Day of the Poor.

The first World Day of the Poor will be celebrated on Sunday 19 November 2017.

“Misericordia et miseria” (Mercy and Misery) is the Apostolic Letter of Pope Francis.

The World Day of the Poor message is entitled, “Let us love, not with words but with deeds”.

Pope Francis invites “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.

The event will be an occasion for community reflection “on how poverty is at the heart of the Gospel,”

Service of the poor was “one of the first signs of the entrance of the Christian community upon the world’s stage. Acts of generosity and kindness must not be limited to occasional volunteer work.

It is an opportunity not only to grow in mercy and charity toward the poor and needy, but to shape our attitude toward them on a daily basis.

Thus, the New Evangelization is able to engage people by presenting the mercy of God and seeing people in that mercy.”



Misericordia et Misera

(Mercy and Misery)

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. 

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 Jn 3:16).

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 “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. 

St. James writes, “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’ (James 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!

St. Lawrence who told the emperor of his time that “the treasure of the Church are the poor.”

The most outstanding example is that of Francis of Assisi, followed by many other holy men and women over the centuries. 

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). 

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). 

5. 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. 

Faced with this scenario, we cannot remain passive, much less resigned. 

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 poor and 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

6. 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.  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.  Let us make every effort to create moments of encounter and friendship, solidarity and concrete assistance.  Let us invite the poor and volunteers to take part together in the Eucharist on this Sunday.

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. 

9. Make this World Day of the Poor a tradition that concretely contributes to evangelization in today’s world.

10. 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.


Lessons Learnt from the Mercy and Misery

I. Francis announced the World Day for the Poor in his concluding message for the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

II. Pope has asked us to celebrate annually on the Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, a week before the Solemnity of Christ the King Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, who identified with the little ones and the poor and who will judge us on our works of mercy (cf. Mt 25:31-46). 

III. Poverty requires action, not empty words. Concern for the poor is a sign of faith, not communism.

IV. Each of us is poor in some way, and that we need to empty ourselves of certain things so that God’s grace can fill us.

V. The Pope notes that “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.”

VI. Therefore, It would be a day to help communities and each of the baptised to reflect on how poverty is at the very heart of the Gospel and that, as long as Lazarus lies at the door of our homes (cf. Lk 16:19-21), there can be no justice or social peace. This Day will also represent a genuine form of new evangelization (cf. Mt 11:5) which can renew the face of the Church as she perseveres in her perennial activity of pastoral conversion and witness to mercy”.

                        * Searching God through serving humanity *

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