The Catholic Church celebrates the 5th World Day of the Poor on 14 November 2021, with the theme – “The poor you will always have with you” (Mark 14:7). These words were uttered when Jesus visited the house of Bethany, and a woman there came in with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment. She poured the precious ointment on Jesus’ head. Pope Francis interpreted it in two different ways. First, he said that few people would spend on the ointment when instead it could be spent for the poor, but the woman has done a wonderful act for Jesus. Second, it reminds us that Jesus is “the first poor, poorest of the poor, because He represents all of them.” We remember this nameless woman’s act of empathy and understanding of Jesus’ mission.
The poor have so much to teach us. First and foremost, they are “always and everywhere”, and they give us an opportunity to evangelise them. The Holy Father reminds us that we should make every opportunity to express our kindness to the poor wherever they may be. The Holy Father invites us to open our hearts “recognising the many different forms of poverty,” “constantly care for the poor” and “desire for more relations in the community.”
There is widespread poverty, injustice, isolation, loneliness, homelessness, trafficking, violence and abuse happening around us, but the Gospel calls us to conversion and to live the message of Christ, by serving Him through the poor with love, respect, dignity and justice.
The Holy Father says that the poor are a Sacrament of Christ, represents Christ and points to Him. We need to discover the true face of Christ in the poor. The poor are neither strangers nor outside of our communities. We must make them part of our lives and take every opportunity to lift them up from all their sufferings and difficulties, in order “to restore their lost dignity” and to include them in our communities. Our sharing and caring “generates fraternity” and “strengthens solidarity” among the poor.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, millions of people have been impacted. Poverty has increased, and countries are facing difficulties in combating the virus. Many people have come forward to spend time and effort to contribute towards helping the poor, especially those who have been physically, economically and financially affected.
Everyone needs to find a new way of being evangelisers during this global crisis in order to “respond to the new form of poverty experienced by humanity today.” We should not hesitate in reaching out to them in their homes, hospitals, nursing homes or on the streets. The “poor are always present in our midst – let’s recognise them and make them part of our lives and an instrument of our salvation.”
(AN EXTRACT FROM THE FIFTH WORLD DAY OF THE POOR 2021)
Rev. Fr. George Packiasamy