Pope Francis has a suggestion for Christian communities: Invite the poor and volunteers to take part together in the Eucharist this Sunday, Nov. 19, the first World Day of the Poor.
“Following the teaching of Scripture … let us welcome them as honored guests at our table; they can be teachers who help us live the faith more consistently,” the Holy Father advises in his message instituting World Day of the Poor.
Wouldn’t that be a marvelous example of going out to the peripheries, as Pope Francis has urged us to do? To extend an invitation to adults or families who are homeless, living in transitional housing or picking up groceries at a food pantry? To spend time volunteering in a shelter or soup kitchen, breaking bread – face to face — with the hungry? To email or post our opposition to the latest tax reform proposal by the U.S. House of Representatives, which is unacceptable because it harms the poor?
Three U.S. bishops pointed out in a Nov. 9 letter to the U.S. House that the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017” as currently written is “unacceptable.” The letter, written on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), cites examples of the proposed legislation’s failure to serve the common good. This “proposal appears to be the first federal income tax modification in American history that will raise income taxes on the working poor while simultaneously providing a tax credit to the wealthy,” the bishops say. (Read more in this week’s issue.)
People living in poverty are not simply the beneficiaries “of our occasional volunteer work, or impromptu acts of generosity that appease our conscience,” Pope Francis points out in his World Day of the Poor message. Our actions on behalf of the poor “ought to lead to a true encounter with the poor and a sharing that becomes a way of life.” Memo to Congress: Spend some time outside the Capitol to serve the hungry with Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., or in your home states.
As members of parishes and communities, we can talk and pray about our response to the cries of the poor. We can respond in charity while being mindful of the needs for broader, all-inclusive justice. We can turn to various resources for guidance. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) for example, created a packet to help parishes to learn about and observe World Day of the Poor (website: crs.org/world-day-poor). Here is a synopsis of five suggestions from CRS:
1. Pray for the poor. When you read headlines from around the world, pause to pray for the people affected by those stories.
2. Practice the corporal works of mercy. Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, shelter the homeless, visit the sick and imprisoned, bury the dead and give alms to the poor.
3. Make caring for the poor part of your routine. Buy items that you use on a regular basis from organizations that pay a fair wage. Look for a fair trade label when purchasing tea or coffee. Consider buying Christmas gifts produced and traded ethically. Find out whether your parish or local businesses might be selling fair trade items.
4. Learn about the causes of poverty and work to change them. Among the organizations in our diocese doing that are Quad Cities Interfaith (www.qcinterfaith.org) and Center for Worker Justice (www.cwjiowa.org). Support their efforts by donating to this weekend’s collection for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). Consider volunteering for the organizations.
Participate in the “One on the Journey: A Solidarity Prayer Walk” after the 8 a.m. Mass Sunday, Nov. 19, at Our Lady of the River Parish, LeClaire. The prayer walk program is available to be loaned to parishes in the diocese. Call (563) 888-4211 to reserve it for your parish.
5. Support the church’s outreach to the poor through CRS. Learn more and get involved at crs.org/world-day-poor.
This World Day of Prayer, Pope Francis says, should help us to grow in the conviction that “sharing with the poor enables us to understand the deepest truth of the Gospel.”
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor