Vatican City, Oct 19, 2016 / 04:35 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis said that while donating money to charity might make us feel good, seeing real poverty in the flesh is a challenge we have to face, rather than trying to avoid it.
“Poverty in the abstract doesn’t challenge us, it makes us think, lament, but when you see poverty in the flesh of a man, woman or child, yes, this challenges us,” he said Oct. 19. To see our brothers and sisters in this state, he said, questions “the attitude we have to run away, the attitude of running away from the needy and not drawing near to them.”
Pope Francis’ comments were made during his catechesis for the general audience, which centered on the passage in James 2 that says “faith without works is dead.” In particular, Francis highlighted the corporal works of mercy of feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty. When faith is dead, it is “incapable of doing works, of charity.” There is always someone who needs our help, our words and our commitment, the Pope said, stressing that we cannot delegate this job to someone else.
“One of the consequences of so-called ‘well-being’ is to lead people to withdraw into themselves, making them insensitive to the needs of others.” This model deceives us, making us live as if our lives were “a fad to follow and change with every season,” he said, adding that reality is “not so,” and “must be accepted and dealt with for what it is, and often there is the need to meet urgent situations.”
Frequently we do not encounter the hungry and thirsty in person, but merely hear about sad news or see sad images in the media, Francis explained, noting that often these images move us and encourage us to donate to charity. This is important, because it can help many, but it “perhaps does not involve us directly,” he pointed out. “But when, going down the street, we cross a person in need, or a poor man comes knocking at the door of our house, it is very different,” because we are “no longer in front of an image, but we are personally involved. There is no longer any distance between me and him or her.”
It is important to question ourselves honestly about what we do in these situations, the Pope said, asking: do we look away or step around the person? Do we stop what we are doing to help? Or do we try to get rid of them as soon as possible? “The experience of hunger is tough,” especially for those who have lived through times of war or famine, he said, “yet this experience is repeated every day” with the poor living “next door to abundance and waste.”
“Think for a moment,” he continued. “How many times do we pray the ‘Our Father,’ and yet we do not really focus on those words: ‘Give us this day our daily bread?’” Quoting Pope Benedict XVI’ encyclical “Caritas in Veritate,” Pope Francis said that feeding the hungry is “an ethical imperative for the universal Church” and “it is therefore necessary to cultivate a public conscience that preserves food and access to water as universal rights of all human beings, without distinction or discrimination.”
“This is why feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty are included among the corporal works of mercy,” the Pope said, telling pilgrims to refrain from putting “a bit of makeup on the reality of the needy” in order to hide from one’s own responsibility. However, story of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes gives us all hope for how we can help, he said, explaining that “it tells us that the little we have, if we entrust it to the hands of Jesus, and we share it with faith, becomes a superabundant wealth.”