Today, as American Catholics commemorate the first Memorial Feast of Blessed John Paul II today, I’d like to reflect on his view of poverty.
Speaking at Yankee Stadium in 1979, Pope John Paul famously said:
The poor of the United States and of the world are your brothers and sisters in Christ. You must never be content to leave them just the crumbs from the feast. You must take of your substance and not just of your abundance in order to help them. And you must treat them like guests at your family table.
In his message for the celebration of the World Day of Peace in 1998, he made the point even more strongly:
Cross Catholic Outreach President Jim Cavnar (left) at a meeting with Pope John Paul II.
The distinctive mark of the Christian, today more than ever, must be love for the poor, the weak, the suffering. Living out this demanding commitment requires a total reversal of the alleged values which make people seek only their own good: power, pleasure, the unscrupulous accumulation of wealth. Yes, it is precisely to this radical conversion that Christ’s disciples are called. Those who commit themselves to following this path will truly experience “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14:17), and will taste “the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Heb 12:11).
Here at Cross Catholic Outreach, we’re striving to give the poor something better than “just the crumbs from the feast.” We hope and pray that when the world sees the work of our priests, nuns and faithful Catholic ministry partners around the globe, they are moved – as we have been moved – by their “love for the poor, the weak, the suffering.”
As long as there is need, we must always be ready to give, to serve, to sacrifice in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.