Pope Francis, during his weekly general audience, has slated
those who turn their backs on the poor, suggesting that their ignorance means
that they despise God.
The pope stressed that in the poor “we find Jesus himself:
whatever you did to the least brothers of mine, you did to me”.
The message is clear: we are called to wake up to the plight
of the poor and to make sure we never ignore them. I recall one of Pope Francis’ early comments
on the poor. He said that we must get
close to them as Jesus did, and touch their wounds. Touch their wounds! It sounds strange that we would put ourselves
in a position to touch the cuts or sores, or even the diseased body of a
stranger. We may wince at the idea of
shaking the hand of a homeless person, knowing full well that those hands could
be carrying all sorts of germs that could make us ill. But that is what we are called to do! We are called to get close, because by
getting close to the poor and the needy we are getting close to Jesus. And we all know that Jesus will not cause us
any harm or give us anything we cannot deal with by his grace.
It is also worth remembering that when Pope Francis refers
to the poor he is not just talking about the homeless or the financially
impoverished. He is also talking about
the poor in spirit; those who have perhaps lost their way in faith or who fail
to recognise the Goodness of God. We are
also called to accompany these people, as well as those who suffer a more typical form of poverty.