In Evangelii Gaudium 186-216, Pope Francis examines “The Inclusion of the Poor in Society.”
186. Our faith in Christ, who became poor, and was always close to the poor and the outcast, is the basis of our concern for the integral development of society’s most neglected members.
For the rest of the week, we’ll explore with the Holy Father this theme which covers sections 187-192: In union with God, we hear a plea. Skeptics among us might ask: what makes the poor so special? Why aren’t they like everybody else?
187. 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.
For whatever reason, God is rather choosy about his closest friends. The Bible tells us so:
A mere glance at the Scriptures is enough to make us see how our gracious Father wants to hear the cry of the poor: “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them… so I will send you…” (Ex 3:7-8, 10). We also see how he is concerned for their needs: “When the Israelites cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up for them a deliverer” (Jg 3:15). If we, who are God’s means of hearing the poor, turn deaf ears to this plea, we oppose the Father’s will and his plan; that poor person “might cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt” (Dt 15:9). A lack of solidarity towards his or her needs will directly affect our relationship with God: “For if in bitterness of soul he calls down a curse upon you, his Creator will hear his prayer” (Sir 4:6). The old question always returns: “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods, and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?” (1 Jn 3:17). Let us recall also how bluntly the apostle James speaks of the cry of the oppressed: “The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts” (5:4).
Think about it a bit more. God made a nation out of a migrant worker and his family. Centuries later, he rescued them from slavery and oppression. Francis of Assisi found sanctity by intentionally spurning the secular and material accomplishments of his family. The earnest young man of the Gospels who found faith in following commandments went away sad from his encounter with the Lord. A missing apostle? We like to think he came back later–a thought that can smooth out the troublesome tenor of that encounter.
But clearly, God has made a choice with whom he will stand.