This poor man cried and the Lord heard him

1. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him» (Ps
34:7). The words of the Psalmist become our own
when we are called to meet the different conditions
of suffering and marginalization lived out by very
many of our brothers and sisters whom we are
accustomed to label generically as “the poor?. The
Psalmist is not extraneous to suffering; quite the
contrary. He has direct experience of poverty and yet
transforms it into a song of praise and thanksgiving
to the Lord. This Psalm is an opportunity for us
today, immersed as we are in the many different
forms of poverty, to understand who are the true
poor on whom we are called to look upon in order to
hear their cry and recognise their needs.
We are told, first of all, that the Lord listens to the
poor who cry to Him and is good to those who seek
refuge in him, their hearts broken by sadness,
loneliness and exclusion. The Lord listens to those who are downtrodden in their dignity and yet
have the strength to look up in order to receive light and comfort. He listens to those who are
persecuted in the name of a false justice, oppressed by policies unworthy of the name and
intimidated by violence. And yet they know that they have their Saviour in God. What emerges
from this prayer is above all the sense of abandonment to, and trust in, a Father who listens and is
welcoming. It is on the same wavelength as these words that we can better understand what Jesus
proclaimed with the beatitude «Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven?
(Matthew 5:3).
Such is this unique experience, in many ways undeserved and impossible to express in full, that we
nevertheless feel the desire to communicate it others, first of all to those who, like the Psalmist, are
poor, rejected and marginalized. In fact, no-one can feel excluded from the Father’s love, especially
in a world which often elevates riches as the primary objective and leads us to isolation.
2. Psalm 34 uses three verbs to characterize the attitude of the poor man and his relationship with
God. First of all, “to cry?. The condition of poverty cannot be expressed in a word, but becomes a
cry which crosses the heavens and reaches God. What does the cry of the poor express if not their
suffering and solitude, their delusion and hope? We can ask ourselves how it is that this cry, which
rises to the presence of God, is unable to penetrate our ears and leaves us indifferent and impassive?
On a day like the World Day of the Poor we are called to make a serious examination of conscience
in order to understand if we are really capable of hearing them.
What we need in order to recognise their voice is silence in which to listen. If we speak too much
ourselves, we will be unable to hear them. Often I am afraid that many initiatives, by themselves
meritorious and necessary, are intended more to please those who undertake them than to really
acknowledge the cry of the poor. If this is the case, when the cry of the poor rings out our reaction is
incoherent and we are unable to empathize with their condition. We are so entrapped in a culture
which obliges us to look in the mirror and to pamper ourselves that we believe that a gesture of
altruism is sufficient without compromising ourselves directly.

3. The second verb is “to answer?. The Lord, the Psalmist tells us, not only listens to the cry of the
poor, but He answers it. His answer, as attested by the whole history of salvation, is an all-loving
sharing in the condition of the poor..God’s answer to the poor is always an intervention of salvation
in order to heal the wounds of body and soul, restore justice and assist in beginning anew to live life
with dignity. God’s answer is also an appeal in order that those who believe in Him can do the same
within the limitations of their human nature. The World Day of the Poor wishes to be a small
answer which the whole Church, spread throughout the world, gives to the poor of every type and
in every land lest they think that their cry has gone unheard. Probably, it is like a drop of water in the
desert of poverty; and yet it can be a sign of sharing for those who are in need, that they might
experience the active presence of a brother or a sister.
4. The third verb is “to free?. The poor of the Bible live with the certainty that God intervenes in
their favour to restore their dignity. Poverty is not brought on by itself, but is caused by selfishness,
pride, greed and injustice. These are evils as old as man himself, but also sins in which the
innocents are caught up, leading to consequences on the social level which are dramatic. God’s
liberating action is an act of salvation towards those who manifest their sadness and distress to
Him. The prison of poverty is broken open by the power of God’s intervention. God’s salvation
takes the form of hand held out to the poor which is welcoming, offers protection and allows them
to experience the friendship which they need. It is beginning with this concrete and tangible
proximity that a genuine path of liberation emerges. «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» ( Evangelii gaudium, 187).
5. I find it moving to know that many of the poor have identified themselves with Bartimaeus from
St. Mark’s Gospel. Bartimaeus, a blind man, «was sitting by the roadside to beg» (verse 46) and,
having heard that Jesus was passing by, «began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have
mercy on me?» (verse 47). «Many rebuked him, telling him to be silent; but he cried out all the
more» (verse 48). The Son of God heard his cry: «“What do you want me to do for you?? And the
blind man said to him, “Master, let me receive my sight?» (verse 51). This Gospel narrative makes
visible what in the Psalm is announced as a promise. Bartimaeus is a poor man who finds himself
deprived of fundamental capacities like his sight and being able to work for his living. How many
paths today also lead to forms of precariousness! The lack of basic means of subsistence,
marginalization stemming from a reduced capacity to work owing to ill-heath, the various forms of
social slavery, notwithstanding the progress made by humankind … How many poor people today
are like Bartimaeus, sitting by the roadside and searching for the meaning of their existence! How
many of them ask themselves why they have fallen so far and how they can escape! They are
waiting from someone to come up and say: «Take heart; rise, he is calling you» (verse 49).
Unfortunately, often the opposite happens and the poor are reached by voices rebuking them and
telling them to shut up and to put up. These voices are out of tune, often determined by a phobia of
the poor, considered not only as destitute, but also as bearers of insecurity and instability, detached
from the habits of daily life and, consequently, to be rejected and kept afar. The tendency is to
create a distance between them and us, without realizing that by so doing we distance ourselves
from the Lord Jesus who does not reject the poor, but calls them to Him and consoles them.
6. The poor are the first to whom it is given to recognise the presence of God and to testify to His
proximity in their lives. God remains faithful to his promise, and even in the darkness of the night
does not withhold the warmth of his love and consolation. However, in order to overcome the
overwhelming condition of poverty, it is necessary that the poor perceive the presence of brothers
and sisters who show concern for them and who, by opening the door of their hearts and lives, make
them feel like friends and family.

We know that in the Temple of Jerusalem, after the sacrificial rite, a banquet took place. It was this
experience which enriched the firstWorld Day of the Poor in many Dioceses last year. Many people
found the warmth of a home, the joy of a celebration meal and the solidarity of those who wished to
share the table in a simple and brotherly way. I would like that this year and in the future this World
Day be celebrated in the spirit of joy for the rediscovery of our capacity for getting together.
Praying together as a community and sharing a Sunday meal is an experience which takes us back
to the earliest Christian community, described by St. Luke the Evangelist
7. Numerous initiatives are undertaken every day by the Christian community in order to give a
sign of neighbourliness and relief in the face of the many forms of poverty which are before our
eyes. Often it is the case that cooperation with other enterprises, moved not not by faith but by
human solidarity, enable us to give assistance which by ourselves would have been impossible…
In the service of the poor, the last thing we need is a battle for first place. Instead we should
recognise with humility that it is the Spirit which solicits from us actions which are a sign of God’s
answer and proximity. When we find a way to draw near to the poor, we know that the first place
belongs to Him who has opened our eyes and our heart to conversion. The poor have no need of
protagonists, but of a love which knows how to hide and forget the good which it has done. The true
protagonists are the Lord and the poor. He who desires to serve is an instrument in God’s hands in
order to make manifest His presence and salvation. St. Paul recalls this when writing to the
Christians of Corinth, who used to compete amongst themselves for charisms by seeking the most
prestigious: «The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,? nor again the head to the feet,
“I have no need of you?» (1 Corinthians 12;21).
8. Here we can see how distant our way of living is from that of the world which praises, follows
and imitates those who have power and riches, while at the same time marginalizing the poor and
considering them a waste and an object of shame. The words of the Apostle Paul are an invitation to
give evangelical fullness to solidarity with the weaker and less gifted members of the body of
Christ: «If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together»
(1 Corinthians 12:26).
9. Aword of hope is the natural epilogue to which faith gives rise. The cry of the poor is also a cry of
hope which manifests the certainty of being liberated. As St. Teresa of ?vila writes in The Way of
Perfection: «Poverty comprises many virtues. It is a vast domain. I affirm that whoever despises all
earthly goods holds dominion over them» (2:5). It is in the measure in which we are able to discern
authentic good that we become rich before God and wise in the face of ourselves and others. It is
really so: in the measure in which we succeed in giving riches their right and true sense that we
grow in humanity and become capable of sharing.
10. I invite my brother bishops, priests and, in particular, deacons, on whom hands have been laid
for the service of the poor (Acts 6:1-7), as well as religious and the lay faithful – men and women –
who in parishes, associations and ecclesial movements make tangible the Church’s response to the
cry of the poor, to live this World Day as a special moment of new evangelization. The poor
evangelize us, helping us to discover every day the beauty of the Gospel. Let us not waste this
opportunity for grace. Let all of us feel on this day that we are debtors towards the poor because,
stretching out our hands reciprocally one to another, a salvific encounter be created which
strengthens our faith, renders our charity active and enables our hope to continue secure on the
journey towards the Lord who is returning.

From the Vatican, 13 June 2018

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