Last weekend I mentioned how generous poor people were to me when I lived in Colombia. I learned a lot from them about generosity, and about a freedom from attachments. I also learned a lot about faith. I had only been there for a couple of months when one of the sisters came to ask me to go anoint Elvira, an old woman, who was sick. Sister Mirabel took me to the poorest part of the parish, right near where sewage entered the river. She lived in a tiny shack, with dirt floors. It was no more than five feet wide, and had only two rooms. This old woman, who seemed to be nothing but skin and bones was laying on a makeshift bed. When sister introduced me, Elvira said, over and over, “Blessed be my God. My God loves the poor.” I was so moved by that. All I could think of was that if I lived in those conditions I probably wouldn’t even believe in a God. And here was this old lady, teaching the young priest about true faith.
Pope Francis has proclaimed this weekend as the Second World Day of the Poor. In his message he writes:
The poor are the first to recognize God’s presence and to testify to his closeness in their lives. God remains faithful to his promise; and even in the darkness of the night, he does not withhold the warmth of his love and consolation. However, for the poor to overcome their oppressive situation, they need to sense the presence of brothers and sisters who are concerned for them and, by opening the doors of their hearts and lives, make them feel like friends and family. Only in this way can the poor discover “the saving power at work in their lives” and “put them at the centre of the Church’s pilgrim way” (Evangelii Gaudium, 198). …
Faith naturally inspires a message of hope. Often it is precisely the poor who can break through our indifference, born of a worldly and narrow view of life. The cry of the poor is also a cry of hope that reveals the certainty of future liberation. This hope is grounded in the love of God, who does not abandon those who put their trust in him (cf. Rom 8:31-39). As Saint Teresa of Avila writes in The Way of Perfection: “Poverty comprises many virtues. It is a vast domain. I tell you, whoever despises all earthly goods is master of them all” (2:5).
I pray that we all may be people of hope, detached from our possessions and filled with faith in God. Only then can we recognize ourselves in each other and learn from one another.