Pope Francis centered his Angelus address this Sunday on what it means to evangelize the poor, and how this is the mission of the Church.

“Evangelize the poor: this is the mission of Jesus; this is also the mission of the Church, and of all the baptized in the Church,” the Pope said Jan. 24 to the crowds in Saint Peter's Square. “To be a Christian and to be a missionary is the same thing.”

“What does it mean to evangelize the poor? It means to be close to them, to serve them, to free them from oppression, and all this in the name and with the Spirit of Christ, because he is the Gospel of God, he is the mercy of God, and he is the liberation of God.”

“It is he who has made himself poor to enrich us with his poverty,” the pontiff said.

Speaking from the Papal Palace to the crowds in Saint Peter's Square, Pope Francis centered his pre-Angelus reflection on the day's Gospel reading which recounts Jesus in the synagogue of Nazareth.

The pontiff noted how Luke's account first summarized Jesus' “work of evangelization” before his return to Nazareth.  

The Pope noted how Jesus is unlike other teachers of the time. Rather than opening “a school for the study of the Law,” he instead “goes around preaching and teaching everywhere.”

He also noted how John the Baptist preached God's judgment, “whereas Jesus announced the forgiveness of the Father.”

Pope Francis then recounted the scene in which Jesus enters the synagogue and reads a passage from the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.” After a moment of silence, Jesus declares: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

Drawing attention to the need to evangelize the poor, the Pope said the proclamation of the Gospel, by word and life, “is the main purpose of the Christian community and all of its members.”

“Jesus directs the Good News to everyone without exception, rather favoring those furthest away, the suffering, the sick, the discarded by society.”

The pontiff went on to observe how in Jesus' time, the marginalized, prisoners, and oppressed were probably not “at the center of the community of faith.”   “And we ask ourselves: Today, in our parish communities, associations, movements, are we faithful to God's plan? The evangelization of the poor, bringing them the good news: is this the priority?”

Pope Francis warned that such service to the poor goes beyond social work, not to mention political activity.

Rather, it entails “offering the strength of the Gospel of God, which converts hearts, heals wounds, transforms human and social relationships according to the logic of love. The poor, in fact, are the center of the Gospel.”

Before leading the crowds in the recitation of the Angelus prayer, the Pope called on Mary, “Mother of evangelizers,” to “help us feel strongly the hunger and thirst of the Gospel in the world, especially in the hearts and flesh of the poor.”

He appealed to Mary to make “every Christian community concretely witness the mercy which Christ has given us.”