Pope Francis in his Message for the 1st World Day of the Poor on 19 November writes, “Blessed are the open hands that bring hope, 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, they are hands that call down God’s blessing.”
In a way Pope Francis adds an extra insight into the well-known Beatitudes from Matthew’s gospel Chapter 5 which can be called the Spirit of the Kingdom. In different translations the words, “Blessed are ..” or “Happy are..” are used. He writes “we may think of the poor simply as beneficiaries of 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. This give rise to joy and peace of soul, because we touch with our own hands the flesh of Christ.”
Do we not all strive for that joy and peace of soul, and how difficult it seems to be to achieve that? Can we each do it in our own way? Is it enough for me with open hands to minister with love to the bereaved, not necessarily materially poor but so deeply impoverished by the loss of a loved one and the pain and confusion that prevents one from coping with life? Is it enough to touch them and hold them close?
Is it enough for the women of the sodality to wash and clean and cook for those dying of AIDS or old age and dementia? Is it enough to make endless loaves of sandwiches, or to visit the penniless and arrange social grants and obtain documentation for foreigners? To how many beggars on street corners can one give a few coins, without looking them in the face with a smile? Does one have to live with lepers as St Francis did? Do such doubts hold one back from experiencing the joy of offering consolation?
Pope Francis writes, “It is hard for our contemporary world to see poverty clearly for what it is. Poverty challenges us daily in faces marked by suffering, marginalisation, 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.
When we feel overwhelmed by the misery of the world is it enough to start small, open our hands where needed in poverty in our family and having experienced the joy of encounter and of giving reach out further? Is this a way of spiritual growth?
Pope Francis concludes, “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.” TR FAMILY WEEKLY 15 NOVEMBER 2017