Says we are called to be a church of and for the poor
(Vatican Radio) “No one is to be a “leftover.” No one is to be “excluded” from God’s love and from our care." This was the heart of a video message sent by Pope Francis to participants in the annual meeting of the Catholic Charities USA, October 5-7 in North Carolina.
Speaking in his native Spanish, Pope Francis said that like the Good Samaritan and Innkeeper in the Bible, “we are called to be in the ‘streets’ inviting and serving those who have been left out."
Describing the umbrella group of Charities as “the engine of the Church that organizes love," he praised their work on behalf of “the poor, the lonely single, the elderly shut-in, the young family, the homeless adult, the hungry child, the refugee youth, the migrant father, and so many others."
He said their work allows these people “to know and experience the tremendous and abundant love of God through Jesus Christ."
Pope Francis described the charity workers and volunteers as “the very hands of Jesus in the world”, whose witness “helps to change the course of the lives of many persons, families and communities."
Encouraging the Charities to continue in their work of service, Pope Francis concluded, “We are called to be a church, a people of and for the poor."
The Holy Father’s address in its entirety follows:
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I send you my warmest greetings of peace and abundant joy as you gather together in Charlotte, North Carolina, to celebrate the work and ministry of Catholic Charities in the United States of America. I really like your theme: “Setting the Pace: Changing the Course.” That really fits in with what I want to share with you today.
As I wrote in Evangelii Gaudium, “The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus (par. 1).” That encounter with the Lord Jesus sets our pace; it changes the course of our lives.
As Jesus called the Apostles and the early Church to “follow” Him, the course of their own lives changed. The early Church witnessed that change of pace and called for a new way to relate to each other and serve the “least of these.” The Gospel message of Matthew gave the true “course” to follow: ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers (and sisters) of mine, you did for me.’ (MT 25:40).
The early Christian community took that message and encounter to heart. They modeled a new way of being, charting a new course in a world that seemed uncaring. We hear that “The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common . . .There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need.” (Acts 4:32, 34-35)
Again, that joy encountered by the disciples of Jesus — both then and today — leads one to act in ways that can turn heads and hearts. It really changes the course of our lives. Like in the story of the Good Samaritan, we are called to be like that Samaritan who stopped on his busy journey to care for his “neighbor,” and more so, we are called to be like the “inn-keeper” (LK 10:35) remaining open to heal and provide a safe place for on-going care. We are called today to respond in the same way. We are called to be in the “streets” inviting and serving those who have been left out. We see the “image of God” in each person’s eyes.
I noted in my Apostolic Exhortation that “Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a ‘throw away’ culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the ‘exploited’ but the outcast, the ‘leftovers’.” (EG, par. 53) They are leftovers, they are surplus. No one is to be a “leftover.” No one is to be “excluded” from God’s love and from our care.