Pope Francis has offered the Church a breath of fresh air, not because he has advocated new or revolutionary beliefs or actions, but because he has restated time-honored truths in simple, friendly, down-to-earth ways. Much of his statements have focused on the issue of the poor and our relationship to them.
A June 7 Vatican Press Release revealed one such statement by the Holy Father:
Poverty in the world is a scandal. In a world where there is so much wealth, so many resources to feed everyone, it is unfathomable that there are so many hungry children, that there are so many children without an education, so many poor persons. Poverty today is a cry. We all have to think if we can become a little poorer, all of us have to do this. How can I become a little poorer in order to be more like Jesus, who was the poor Teacher?
For those who seek a deeper relationship with the Lord, the Holy Father’s words offer a thought-provoking challenge notwithstanding his kind, soft-spoken delivery. Christian stewards recognize Jesus’ teaching in that statement: For whom much is given, much is expected. This is can be a hard gospel teaching to embrace.
The Holy Father’s words test our comfortable lifestyles and give us some stewardship questions to think about. No matter what our perceived social or economic status, the question remains: Can we become a little poorer in order to be more like Jesus?
In that same June 7 address, the pope went on to express something he has lived out in his own life among the poor in Latin America: “Look,” he said, “You can’t speak of poverty without having experience with the poor. You can’t speak of poverty in the abstract: that doesn’t exist.”
In that last quote lies a great kernel of truth. As we discern our own level of generosity toward the poor, we must come face to face with them, and not in some vague manner either. Perhaps a day spent with refugees resettling in your community, or at a daycare serving low income children, or helping people select groceries at a food bank will bring poverty home to us and help in our discernment.
These are challenging questions to ask ourselves: How can we become a little poorer in our own lives? How do we come face-to-face with the poor?