The world has a lot to say about the poor.
Take a stroll down the roughest part of your local city center: what do you feel? Discomfort? Guilt? Indifference? Do you avoid eye contact with the homeless, with drug dealers, with street children, with prostitutes? Do you simply walk a little faster?
Maybe you stop and share some change, or a granola bar, or even stop to buy a coffee. Many of us feel like there’s nothing to be done, that we could never do enough to make a difference in the lives of those in need, or even that they don’t deserve our assistance.
For many of us, the poor are faceless: a child in a third world country who gets a basket of rice for our $19.99 every month or the patrons of a soup kitchen to which we donate non-perishables.
Humanitarianism is on the rise in our culture. Like never before, we have the ability not only to know about, but to travel and actually impact, the whole world. People like Angelina Jolie, Bono, and Pope Francis are three of the loudest voices speaking out against human suffering today. These people feel a responsibility, even a call, to help those in need.
This week over a million Catholic Christian young people flood Rio de Janeíro for World Youth Day. They have traveled from literally all over the world to see and receive guidance from the Pope. This isn’t just a fun vacation for the youth who are attending, they will be challenged to try and make the world a better place when they leave.
Pope Francis will welcome all of these visitors to his native South America, and throughout his visit he’ll be greeting millions who have traveled to worship alongside him–but that’s only part of his schedule.
The Pope’s visit to Rio will be busy. He will spend most of the day Wednesday in prayerful retreat, and then spend his evening visiting patients suffering with AIDS at a Rio hospital. The next day, he will visit one of the poorest neighborhoods in Rio, Manguinhos. He will also spend some time visiting with young prisoners: not in their prison, rather, they will be welcomed at the Archbishop’s home in Rio.
Francis has made it clear that he cares deeply for the poor and that his ministry will be centered around loving those whom the world has rejected. When he washed the feet of 12 young prisoners before Easter this year, he said: “Among us the one who is highest up must be at the service of others. This is a symbol, it is a sign. Washing your feet means I am at your service.”
Pope Francis is imitating the One who loved him first.
Many people – people like Mother Teresa, Pope Francis, and yes, even Bono – have been inspired by the love of Jesus Christ, who lived His whole life loving those whom the world abused.
Jesus was motivated by love, in fact He is the very definition of love. His ministry culminated with the sacrifice of His own life on the cross: He died for all of us.
It’s easy to spot the poor and needy materially, but we are all poor. We all have a hunger. Jesus gave His life to provide for us in our poverty and hunger with His love. The Bible says “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)
If this is true, if we are motivated by love and want to love well, then we need to be willing to sacrifice our comforts and even our own lives for those who go without. And to do this well, we need to know that we have been loved first.
The way to do that is simple. You can use the prayer below, or your own words to do the following:
1. Tell God that you are sorry for your sins – the ways you have hurt or ignored Him.
2. Acknowledge that Jesus lived and died to pay the consequences of your selfishness.
3. Rejoice that Jesus rose from the dead to enter eternal life and to offer it to you too!
4. Finally, ask Jesus to take control of your life and to fill you in your hunger so that you can go and love others.
We don’t need to be millionaires, authorities, or celebrities with a huge sphere of influence in order to make a difference in the lives of those in need. We can start in our own cities, loving our friends, but eventually the whole world, and loving them the way Jesus did. Eating with the hungry, socializing with the ostracized, clothing the naked, visiting prisoners.
If you feel convicted by this, why not find a local soup kitchen and serve lunch to the hungry a few times a month, go through your closet and donate anything you haven’t worn in a while to a shelter, or visit an elderly neighbour? And while you’re at it, consider Who may have blessed you with the means to help those in need.
Lord Jesus, I am hungry. I have tried to fill my life with many things that do not satisfy. I have hurt others and I have hurt You with my words and actions, and I’m sorry. I believe that You died on the cross to spare me from the consequences I deserve. Thank You for Your sacrifice. I believe that You rose from the dead into eternal life and I want to live it with You: I know that You alone can satisfy me. I want You to take control of my life, show me Your great love so that I can share it with the world. Amen.
If you feel that hunger in your heart, talk to a mentor.