6 February 2014
In this image from 2010, Sister Shubba Poovattil visits with an elderly resident in Malayatoor, India, at a home devoted to caring for the “poorest of the poor.” Read more about the work she and other sisters are undertaking in Fearless Grace. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
This week Pope Francis released his first message for Lent, which begins on 5 March. The message focuses on the needs of the poor, taking for its starting point this verse from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9).
In imitation of our Master, we Christians are called to confront the poverty of our brothers and sisters, to touch it, to make it our own and to take practical steps to alleviate it. Destitution is not the same as poverty: destitution is poverty without faith, without support, without hope. There are three types of destitution: material, moral and spiritual. Material destitution is what is normally called poverty, and affects those living in conditions opposed to human dignity: those who lack basic rights and needs such as food, water, hygiene, work and the opportunity to develop and grow culturally. In response to this destitution, the Church offers her help, her diakonia, in meeting these needs and binding these wounds which disfigure the face of humanity. In the poor and outcast we see Christ’s face; by loving and helping the poor, we love and serve Christ. Our efforts are also directed to ending violations of human dignity, discrimination and abuse in the world, for these are so often the cause of destitution. When power, luxury and money become idols, they take priority over the need for a fair distribution of wealth. Our consciences thus need to be converted to justice, equality, simplicity and sharing.
No less a concern is moral destitution, which consists in slavery to vice and sin. How much pain is caused in families because one of their members — often a young person — is in thrall to alcohol, drugs, gambling or pornography! How many people no longer see meaning in life or prospects for the future, how many have lost hope! And how many are plunged into this destitution by unjust social conditions, by unemployment, which takes away their dignity as breadwinners, and by lack of equal access to education and health care. In such cases, moral destitution can be considered impending suicide. This type of destitution, which also causes financial ruin, is invariably linked to the spiritual destitution which we experience when we turn away from God and reject his love. If we think we don’t need God who reaches out to us through Christ, because we believe we can make do on our own, we are headed for a fall. God alone can truly save and free us.
Read the full message here.
And if you want to offer your support to women like sister Shubba Poovattil in India, visit this page to find out how.
Tags: India Pope Francis Sisters Poor/Poverty Caring for the Elderly