The Poor Are Always With Us

Written by Tia Glenn-Cooke

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Christian and non-Christian alike, 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 either 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.

In the midst of all of these impressions and opinions, the one we should be paying attention to comes to us from Scripture, from the lips of our God: 

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me….Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Mt. 25:34-36, 40, emphasis mine)

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 Pope Francis. The theme for the biannual event this year is the Great Commission. The young people attending will be equipped and spiritually fed so they can go back out into the world as everyday missionaries.

Pope Francis will welcome all of these visitors to his native South America, and throughout his visit he’ll be leading prayer services and Mass for the millions of pilgrims who have traveled to worship alongside him–but that’s only part of his schedule.

Francis has made it clear that his heart beats for the poor and that his ministry, which has already been characterized by humility and service, will be centered around loving those whom the world has rejected.

The Pope’s schedule as he visits Rio manifests this. 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.

Whatever we do for the least among us, we do to Christ. If this is true, then we need to re-evaluate: what have we done to Him lately? Avoided eye contact? Walked quickly by? Ignored His existence entirely? Muttered that He deserved His own suffering? Stopped to buy Him a coffee? Shared a smile?

That passage from Matthew really convicts me. For all the times I try to reach out and love the people around me, there are probably ten times that I fail. God’s grace is there when I fall short, but He never stops calling me to try harder, to try again.

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 are called not to just serve Christ, but to emulate Him. To eat with the hungry, to socialize with sinners, to clothe the naked, to visit prisoners.

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 neighbor? And while you’re at it, say a little prayer of thanksgiving that God has blessed you with the means to help those in need.

Here are some ways you can start right now!

  • One important way to give is through your time: become an online a mentor
  • Our ministry has a humanitarian arm, check out the Global Aid Network here.
  • If you’d like to get involved locally, but are feeling stuck, try starting here if you are in the USA or here if you are in Canada.

Find a food bank if you’re in need of assistance: in the USA or in Canada.

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