By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency
[Vatican City – CNA] – Pope Francis said June 13 that the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has revealed poverty that Catholics cannot ignore.
“The word of God allows for no complacency; it constantly impels us to acts of love,” Pope Francis wrote in his message for the 2020 World Day of the Poor.
“This pandemic arrived suddenly and caught us unprepared, sparking a powerful sense of bewilderment and helplessness,” the pope said. “This has made us all the more aware of the presence of the poor in our midst and their need for help.”
Pope Francis said that “time devoted to prayer can never become an alibi for neglecting our neighbor in need.”
“Prayer to God and solidarity with the poor and suffering are inseparable,” he said.
In his message published June 13, the pope wrote that “generosity that supports the weak, consoles the afflicted, relieves suffering and restores dignity to those stripped of it, is a condition for a fully human life.”
He stressed that the time given in support of the poor cannot be put second to one’s personal interests.
“The decision to care for the poor, for their many different needs, cannot be conditioned by the time available or by private interests, or by impersonal pastoral or social projects,” he said.
“The power of God’s grace cannot be restrained by the selfish tendency to put ourselves always first,” he added.
The pope recognized that the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic has left many people feeling “poorer and less self- sufficient.”
“The present experience has challenged many of our assumptions,” he said. “The loss of employment, and of opportunities to be close to our loved ones and our regular acquaintances, suddenly opened our eyes to horizons that we had long since taken for granted. Our spiritual and material resources were called into question and we found ourselves experiencing fear.”
Francis pointed to the wisdom found in the Old Testament Book of Sirach. “In page after page, we discover a precious compendium of advice on how to act in the light of a close relationship with God, creator and lover of creation, just and provident towards all his children,” he said.
Quoting Sirach chapter two, the pope said: “‘Do not be alarmed when disaster comes. Cling to him and do not leave him, so that you may be honored at the end of your days. Whatever happens to you, accept it, and in the uncertainties of your humble state, be patient, since gold is tested in the fire, and chosen men in the furnace of humiliation. Trust him and he will uphold you, follow a straight path and hope in him. You who fear the Lord, wait for his mercy; do not turn aside in case you fall.’”
Pope Francis said: “The Church certainly has no comprehensive solutions to propose, but by the grace of Christ she can offer her witness and her gestures of charity.”
“She likewise feels compelled to speak out on behalf of those who lack life’s basic necessities. For the Christian people, to remind everyone of the great value of the common good is a vital commitment, expressed in the effort to ensure that no one whose human dignity is violated in its basic needs will be forgotten,” he added.
The theme for this year’s World Day of the Poor comes from a line in chapter six of the Book of Sirach: “Stretch forth your hand to the poor.”
“This year’s theme – ‘Stretch forth your hand to the poor’ – is thus a summons to responsibility and commitment as men and women who are part of our one human family. It encourages us to bear the burdens of the weakest, in accord with the words of Saint Paul: ‘Through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’” he said.
Pope Francis established the World Day of the Poor at the end of the Jubilee Year of Mercy in 2016. It is celebrated each year on the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, one week before the Feast of Christ the King. The 2020 World Day of the Poor will take place on November 15.
“Each year, on the World Day of the Poor, I reiterate this basic truth in the life of the Church, for the poor are and always will be with us to help us welcome Christ’s presence into our daily lives,” the pope said.
“The ‘end’ of all our actions can only be love. This is the ultimate goal of our journey, and nothing should distract us from it.”