DAILY CATHOLIC    Friday through Tuesday: Celebrating the "Communion of Saints" Special Issue     October 29 - November 2, 1999     vol. 10, no. 207


To print out entire text of Today's issue,

      Today, we bring you the words from His Holiness Pope John Paul II from last Wednesday October 27 on the final Wednesday of October during his weekly Wednesday Papal Audience at St. Peter's Square where the Holy Father continued his catechesis on the Theological Virtue of Charity, this week focusing on love for the poor whom God has always cherished as the Pope gives numerous examples from both the Old and New Testament as to our responsibility to loving and caring for the poor. The full English text was translated and provided by ZENIT news agency, article ZE99102723.

"Preferential Love for the Poor"

Papal Audience Address from Wednesday, October 13, 1999

        On this past Wednesday, the Holy Father addressed over 15,000 in St. Peter's Square in which the Pope continued Christ's call for us to love our neighbor, especially the poor and downtrodden who are special before God as the Vicar of Christ cites through numerous examples from Sacred Scripture and Church documents for the "Poor you will have always with you."

    Dear Brothers and Sisters,

    1. The Second Vatican Council emphasizes a specific dimension of love that, by the example of Christ, moves us above all towards the poorest of the poor: "As Christ...was invited by the Father to 'give the good news to the poor, to heal those with contrite hearts' (Luke 4:18), 'to look for and to save those who were lost'(Luke 19:10), so the Church surrounds with affectionate care those afflicted by human weakness and, even more, recognizing in the poor and suffering the image of its poor and suffering Founder, hastening to relieve them of their need, and intending to serve Christ in them" (Lumen Gentium, 8).

        Today we want to deepen the teaching of Holy Scripture on the motivation of preferential love for the poor.

    2. First of all it is clear that, from the Old to the New Testament, there is a progression in how the poor and their situation are valued. In the Old Testament we often see emerge the common human conviction that wealth is better than poverty and represents the just compensation reserved for the upright and God-fearing: "Happy are those who fear the Lord, who greatly delight in His commandments...Wealth and riches are in their houses"(Psalm 112:1-3). Poverty is understood as punishment for those who refuse wise instruction (cf. Proverbs 13:19).

        But from another perspective, the poor become objects of particular attention as the victims of perverse injustice. The denunciations of the prophets against the exploitation of the poor are famous. The prophet Amos (CF 2:6-15) puts the oppression of the poor among his main accusations against Israel: "They sell the righteous for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals -- they who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth, and push the afflicted out of the way" (Ibid., vv. 6-7). The linking of poverty with injustice is also emphasized in Isaiah: "Ah, you who make iniquitous decrees, who write oppressive statutes, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be your spoil, and that you may make the orphans your prey"(Isaiah 10:1-2).

        This connection also explains why norms in defense of the poor and of the socially weaker abound: "Do not mistreat the widow or the orphan. If you mistreat them, when they seek help from me, I will listen to their cries" (Ezechiel 22:21-22; cf. Proverbs 22:22-23; Sirach 4:1-10). To defend the poor is to give honor to God, Father of the poor. Therefore generosity on their behalf is both justified and recommended (cf. Deuteronomy 15:1-11; 24:10-15; Proverbs 14:21; 17:5).

        As the topic of poverty progressively deepens, it becomes a religious value. God speaks of "His" poor (cf. Isaiah 49:13) who become identified with the "remnant of Israel", a humble and poor people, according to an expression of the prophet Zephaniah (CF 3:12). It is also said of the future Messiah that he will take the poor and oppressed to heart, as Isaiah explains in the well-known text regarding the shoot that will sprout from the root of Jesse: "But with righteousness He shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth"(Isaiah 11:4).

    3. This is why in the New Testament the happy message of liberation is announced to the poor, emphasized by Jesus Himself when He applied to Himself the prophecy of the book of Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" (Luke 4:18; cf. Isaiah 61:1-2).

        We must take on the interior attitude of poverty in order to be participants in the "Kingdom of Heaven" (cf. Matthew 5:3; Luke 6:20). In the parable of the great banquet, the poor, together with the crippled, blind, and lame, basically the most suffering and marginalized social categories, are invited to the banquet (cf. Luke 14:21). St. James says that God has "chosen the poor of the world be rich in faith and to be heirs the kingdom that He promised to those who love Him" (James 2:5).

    4. "Evangelical" poverty always implies a great love for the poorest of this world. In this third year of preparation for the Great Jubilee we must rediscover God as providential Father who bends down to human suffering to raise up those afflicted by it. Our love must also translate into sharing and human promotion, intended as the integral growth of every person.

        Throughout history, evangelical radicalism has driven many of Jesus' disciples to seek out poverty, to the point of selling their own goods and giving them as alms. Poverty becomes a virtue here which, besides relieving the lot of the poor, is transformed into a spiritual path thanks to which one may procure for himself true richness, that is, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven (cf. Luke 12:32-34). Material poverty is never an end in itself, but a means to follow Christ, Who, as Paul reminds the Corinthians, "though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich"(2 Corinthians 8:9).

    5. Here I cannot fail to note once again that the poor constitute the modern challenge, especially for the well-off of our planet, where millions of people live in inhuman conditions and many are literally dying of hunger. It is not possible to announce God the Father to these brothers and sisters without taking on the responsibility of building a more just society in the name of Christ.

        Always, and in a particular way in her social teaching -- from Rerum Novarum to Centesimus Annus -- the Church has endeavored to deal with the topic of the poorest of the poor. The great Jubilee year of 2000 must be experienced as a further occasion for a strong conversion of the heart, so that the Spirit may inspire new witnesses in this direction. Christians, together with all people of good will, must, through adequate economic and political programs, contribute to very necessary structural changes, so that humanity may be raised up from the wound of poverty (cf. CA 57).

October 29 - November 2, 1999       volume 10, no. 207


|    Back to Graphics Front Page     Back to Text Only Front Page     |    Archives     |    What the DAILY CATHOLIC offers     |    DAILY CATHOLIC Ship Logs    |    Ports o' Call LINKS     |    Catholic Webrings    |    Catholic & World News Ticker Headlines     |    Why we NEED YOUR HELP     |    Why the DAILY CATHOLIC is FREE     |    Our Mission     |    Who we are    |    Books offered     |    Permissions     |    Top 100 Catholics of the Century    |    Enter Porthole HomePort Page    |    Port of Entry Home Page |    E-Mail Us