It is natural that all of us become absorbed by our own personal lives and the lives of those we love. But one of the great challenges of our faith is to see beyond our own personal concerns and to take practical steps to care for the poor and the weakest in our society. This is one of the clear messages of Jesus, that we show our faith not simply by our prayer and attendance at Mass, but by a real love and care for those around us.
This is something that challenges all of us, and it is necessary for us to be reminded from time to time that we have obligations to those in the greatest need. One of the great gifts of Pope Francis for our Church, and for the world, is his clear call to all of us that a life of faith is a life where we practically commit ourselves to a life of service to those who are in greater need than ourselves. Here are just a few remarks that he has made in just the last months:
“We have to state, without mincing words, that there is an inseparable bond between our faith and the poor. May we never abandon them.
How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality.
Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own.
Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society. This demands that we be docile and attentive to the cry of the poor and to come to their aid.
In this context, we can understand Jesus’ command to his disciples: “You yourselves give them something to eat!” (Mk 6:37): it means working to eliminate the structural causes of poverty and to promote the integral development of the poor, as well as small daily acts of solidarity in meeting the real needs which we encounter.
In all places and circumstances, Christians, with the help of their pastors, are called to hear the cry of the poor…. Seeing their poverty, hearing their cries and knowing their sufferings, we are scandalized because we know that there is enough food for everyone and that hunger is the result of a poor distribution of goods and income.
This is why I want a Church which is poor and for the poor. They have much to teach us. In their difficulties they know the suffering Christ. We need to let ourselves be evangelized by them.”
I think that this is a time for us all to be challenged by the courageous words of Pope Francis. There is so much to be thankful for about the quality of our parish life. We have so many people committed to serving God in so many different ways. But the burning question is whether or not Holy Redeemer parish is a Church for the poor.
I am well aware of the generosity of our parishioners whenever we are asked to have special collections for the needy. I am aware too of how many people contribute bread each day to feed the poor who come to the Monastery for assistance. We are also blessed in that we have active groups in our parish who, every day, assist the poor in our midst. The St. Vincent de Paul Society and the co-workers of Mother Teresa groups, as well as others, do all they can to assist the poor.
The one thing that concerns me is that the number of members in these groups are few, and most of them are getting on in years. I sometimes ask myself who is going to step into their shoes? Why do we have so many young people not choosing to be actively involved in helping those we need? What more can we do as a parish to be a Church for the poor? These are questions which we need to ponder. And it is my hope and prayer that, in the near future, we can take real steps to become the kind of parish that Pope Francis is calling us to be in today’s world.
Fr Gerard, CSsR