In a globalised world where new forms of material and spiritual poverty are on the rise, Christians “are asked to be silent as sentinels in order to ensure that a poverty created by the culture of wellbeing” does not make them indifferent. The Pope said this during the course of the Extraordinary Jubilee Audience held just before the summer break, underlining that “works of mercy are not theory but concrete testimonies”. Francis also sent out an appeal for families suffering as a result of scares or precarious work. The Pope then recalled the recent visit to Armenia from Friday to Sunday last week and reminded faithful that in September he will be travelling back to the Caucasus region, this time to Georgia and Azerbaijan, to encourage “hope and paths of peace” amongst other things.
“How often, in the first few months of the Jubilee, have we heard about works of mercy!” the Pope started off by saying. “Today, the Lord asks us to seriously examine our conscience. We should never forget that mercy is not an abstract word but a lifestyle. It is one thing to talk about mercy and quite another to practice it.” What “makes mercy come alive, is the inexhaustible energy with which it meets the needs and requirements of the materially and spiritually disadvantaged. Mercy has eyes to see, ears to listen, hands to lift back up. Day-to-day life exposes us directly to the many needs of the most poor and tested people. We are asked to give this special attention, which alerts us to the suffering and neediness of so many brothers and sisters. Sometimes, we walk past dramatic situations of poverty, yet we seem not to be affected by them; everything goes on as normal, in a spirit of indifference that turns us into hypocrites and leads to a form of spiritual lethargy that numbs the soul and make sour life sterile. Those who live their lives without paying attention to the needs of others, without seeing the many spiritual and material needs of others, are people who walk past without living, people who do not serve others. Remember this carefully: those who do not live to serve, is of no use living”.
“Whoever has felt the Father’s mercy in his or her own life, cannot be indifferent to the needs of their brothers and sisters,” Francis continued. Jesus teaching, which we have heard, offers no way out: I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you visited Me. It is no good dithering around a hungry person: give him or her something to eat. The changes in our globalised world are causing some material and spiritual forms of poverty to grow: so let us give space to our imagination when it comes to charity, to discover new ways of operating. This way, the path pf mercy will become will become increasingly concrete. We are therefore asked to be alert like sentinels, to prevent Christian care from dwindling and being unable to focus on what is essential in the face of poverty caused by a culture of wellbeing. What does it mean to focus on the essential? Observing Jesus, looking at Jesus in each hungry, imprisoned, sick, naked person, in the jobless who have a family to look after,” the Pope continued, speaking off the cuff. “Looking at Jesus through these brothers and sisters; looking at Jesus is those who are lonely, sad, whose who trip up and are in need of advice, whose who are in need of company and need to walk alongside Him in silence. This is what Jesus asks of us: to look at Jesus through them, through these people. Why? Why does Jesus look at me and at all of us this way?
Francis then talked about his recent visit to Armenia, “the first nation to have embraced Christianity”. He hadn’t been able to do so yesterday because he celebrated the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul so there was no General Audience. “Now let us move onto a different subject,” he said with a smile: throughout the course of history, the Armenian people “have born witness to the faith with martyrdom. I give thanks to God for this visit and I am deeply grateful to the President of the Armenian Republic, Catholicos Karekin II, the Patriarch, the Catholic bishops and the Armenian people as a whole for welcoming me as a pilgrim of fraternity and peace. In three months time,” he added, “I will embark on another visit, God willing, to Georgia and Azerbaijan, two more countries in the Caucasus region. My reason for accepting the invitation to visit these countries is twofold: on the one hand I wish to pay tribute to their ancient Christian roots – in a spirit of dialogue and with other religions and cultures – and on the other, I wish to encourage hope and paths of peace. History teaches us that the path of peace requires great tenacity and constant steps being taken. These will be baby steps at first but these will gradually grow, as mutual understanding grows. For this reason, I hope that each and every person will do their bit for reconciliation”. The Pope also reminded Polish pilgrims in St. Peter’s of the upcoming World Youth Day at the end of July. “Please continue to pray for me and for young people in Poland and across the Christian world who are preparing for our imminent meeting in Krakow.”
At the end of the Audience, the Pope sent out a special greeting to the Associazione dei Consulenti del Lavoro (Association of Work Consultants), encouraging them to “promote a work culture that guarantees the dignity of the individual and the common good of society, starting from its nucleus, the family. Indeed,” Francis continued, “it is the family that suffers the consequences of a bad job the most: bad because of its scarcity and precariousness. As work consultants, yours is not a welfare role, your role is promotional, to ensure in other words, that institutions and economic entities pursue the common goal of full and dignified employment, on a national and European level. Because work gives people dignity!”