Pope Francis has a knack of finding the right phrase to catch our attention.  In his Lenten message he tells us  “I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt”.

This admission comes at the end of a reflection on the poverty of Jesus who “became poor so that by his poverty you might become rich” ( 2 Cor 8:9).

The pope draws our attention to the fact that God’s logic is different from ours:  “God did not let our salvation drop down from heaven like someone who gives alms from their abundance out of a sense of altruism and piety”.  Rather, God’s logic led to the Incarnation –sharing our poverty and weakness, being taken for a sinner among sinners, redeeming us from within!

God continues to save us through the poverty of Christ “who makes himself poor in the sacraments, in his word and in his church, which is a people of the poor”.

Pope Francis then reflects on the kinds of poverty we have to face: material poverty or destitution, moral poverty or destitution and worst of all spiritual destitution.

The call to all Christians is to proclaim and live the reality of the liberating news of redemption, “that forgiveness of sins is possible, that God is greater than our sinfulness, that he freely loves us at all times and that we were made for communion and eternal life”.   We have to confront the many faced destitutions around us: we are called to enrich others out of our poverty –just as Jesus does.

But this must be real: “Let us not forget that real poverty hurts; no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance”.

However we respond to the Pope’s invitation this year, it must be real, it must bite!

Fr Sean Wales, C.Ss.R.

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