World Day of the Poor – Thirty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time 2019
It was at the conclusion of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy in late November 2016 that Pope Francis named the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time the World Day of the Poor. The theme of the first World Day of the Poor was Let us love, not with words but with deeds.
The day is offered as a reminder to us to reach out in solidarity to the men and women who are most in need, those such as the homeless, the sick and prisoners. It doesn’t take much imagination or insight for us to see those who are the poorest.
The Church is calling us to move beyond seeing them, to actually respond with acts of solidarity. Many of our parishes and organizations will have organized deeds that unite us to the poor. The poor are always with us, so our deeds are not confined to one Sunday.
The theme for this third commemoration is The hope of the poor shall not perish for ever (based on a verse from Psalm 9). Psalm 9 comes from a time of great economic development that led to serious social imbalances.
The Psalmist describes the condition of the poor and the arrogance of those who oppress them. How can God tolerate the disparity between the poor and their oppressors? How can God let the poor be humiliated? The Psalmist’s question is still a valid concern in our world.
Pope Francis issued a letter for this day. He points out that The centuries pass, but the condition of rich and poor remains constant, as if history has taught us nothing. He goes on to refer to the many new forms of bondage that enslave millions of women, men and children (refugees, orphans, victims of exploitation, victims of violence, the homeless, and so on).
The Psalm speaks with stark reality of the attitude of those who rob the poor. He watches intently for the downtrodden, lurking unseen like a lion in his lair, lurking to pounce on the poor; he pounces on him and drags him off in his net.
Francis speaks of the cry of the poor growing louder and embracing the entire earth. He offers a quote from Father Primo Mazzolari, an Italian parish priest whose cause for beatification is in process. He is a twentieth-century priest who is often referred to as Italy’s Parish Priest. He is remembered for the combination of his social advocacy with a profound devotion to the Church. He says, The poor are a constant protest against our injustices; the poor are a powder keg. If it is set on fire, the world will explode.
Francis also refers to the late Canadian Jean Vanier and all that he offered us through his life. The Pope refers to him as a great apostle of the poor, pointing out how he opened up new ways of showing solidarity with the marginalized and working for their advancement.
Francis describes Vanier as a saint next door. The letter for this dayshano focuses on the unwavering hope that can be offered to the poor and marginalized. Our own actions on this day and so many other days can offer that hope to the poor around us. Let us be ministers of that hope!