Our faith in Christ, who became poor, and was always close to the poor and the outcast, is the basis of our concern for the integral development of society’s most neglected members.

Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society. This demands that we be docile and attentive to the cry of the poor and to come to their aid.

A mere glance at the Scriptures is enough to make us see how our gracious Father wants to hear the cry of the poor: ‘I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them… so I will send you…’10

We also see how he is concerned for their needs: ‘When the Israelites cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up for them a deliverer.’ 11 If we, who are God’s means of hearing the poor, turn deaf ears to this plea, we oppose the Father’s will and his plan; that poor person ‘might cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt.’ 12

A lack of solidarity towards his or her needs will directly affect our relationship with God: ‘For if in bitterness of soul he calls down a curse upon you, his Creator will hear his prayer’.13

The old question always returns: ‘How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods, and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?’ 14

Let us recall also how bluntly the apostle James speaks of the cry of the oppressed: ‘The wages of the labourers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.’ 15

The Church has realised that the need to heed this plea is itself born of the liberating action of grace within each of us, and thus it is not a question of a mission reserved only to a few: ‘The Church, guided by the Gospel of mercy and by love for mankind,hears the cry for justice and intends to respond to it with all her might.’ 16

In this context we can understand Jesus’ command to his disciples: ‘You yourselves give them something to eat!’ 17 It means working

  • to eliminate the structural causes of poverty and
  • to promote the integral development of the poor,
  • as well as small daily acts of solidarity in meeting the real needs which we encounter.

The word ‘solidarity’ is a little worn and at times poorly understood, but it refers to something more than a few sporadic acts of generosity. It presumes the creation of a new mindset which thinks in terms of community and the priority of the life of all over the appropriation of goods by a few.

Solidarity is a spontaneous reaction by those who recognise that the social function of property and the universal destination of goods are realities which come before private property.

The private ownership of goods is justified by the need to protect and increase them, so that they can better serve the common good; for this reason, solidarity must be lived as the decision to restore to the poor what belongs to them.

These convictions and habits of solidarity, when they are put into practice, open the way to other structural transformations and make them possible.

Changing structures without generating new convictions and attitudes will only ensure that those same structures will become, sooner or later, corrupt, oppressive and ineffectual.

In all places and circumstances, Christians, with the help of their pastors, are called to hear the cry of the poor.

 

Extracted from Evangelii Gaudium 186, 187, 188, 189, 191
10 Ex 3:7-8, 10
11   Jg 3:15
12   Dt 15:9
13   Sir 4:6
14 1 Jn 3:17
15   James 5:4
16 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Libertatis Nuntius (6 August 1984), XI, 1:AAS 76 (1084), 903
17 Mk 6:37

This article can be found in Mirror 0715.