In 2017, at the invitation of Pope Francis and his initiative, the Church observed the first World Day of the Poor. Our Holy Father directed that it be observed each year on the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time – the Sunday prior to the Solemnity of Christ the King. When establishing the World Day of the Poor, Francis saw this as a natural way of continuing to manifest the Jubilee Year of Mercy which concluded in November 2016.
Our Pope challenges us to “not see the poor as a problem.” Rather, he wants us 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 breaks their solitude.” Obviously, that’s difficult to do. But Pope Francis is convinced that when we do these things, our hearts will know the fullness of love that God has for all his children.
The focus of this year’s observance is from Psalm 9:18 – “the poor will not for ever perish.” These words are echoed by Jesus himself when he says, “The poor you will always have with you” (Mt 26:11, Mk 14:7). In his message for this day, Francis reminds us that the Scriptures often reveal that God cares for the poor and acts on their behalf. That becomes the challenge that we, the People of God, must also respond to in caring for the poor and the needy. If God has such a heart for the poor, how is it that I do not?
And allow me to put this question out there: How can our parish – this community of faith – respond more the needs of the poor in St. Augustine? The Holy Father’s words along with those of the Sacred Scriptures confront us to do more so that the greatness of God’s Charity can be made known.