By: Dominique Johnson
“Whenever we set out to love as Jesus loved, we have to take the Lord as our example; especially when it comes to loving the poor.” – Pope Francis
At the end of the Jubilee of Mercy in November 2016, Pope Francis instituted a World Day of the Poor, so “Communities can become an ever-greater sign of Christ’s charity for the least and those most in need.”
The second World Day of the Poor will take place this month, on November 18th. In this initiative, the pope has called all Catholics to have a true encounter and hear the cry of those living in our communities who may often be overlooked.
What does it mean to encounter the poor among us? Pope Francis shares that it means “to meet their gaze, to embrace them and to let them feel the warmth of love that breaks through their solitude.”
The pope is calling us to do more than give financially or volunteer our time. He is reminding us to be like Christ. To step outside of our comfort zones and walk side by side with the poor and get to know them and listen to their needs, “At times I fear that many initiatives, meritorious and necessary in themselves, are meant more to satisfy those who undertake them than to respond to the real cry of the poor.”
In Southeast Alaska, we can encounter and listen to those less fortunate in our communities by volunteering at our local soup kitchens and homeless shelters, and while we are there sharing a conversation we need to hear what the people we are serving have to say.
Catholic Community Service, serves meals to seniors who are homebound in Angoon, Craig, Klawock, Haines, Klukwan, Hoonah, Juneau, Kake, Saxman, Ketchikan, Sitka, Skagway, Wrangell and Yakutat. These programs need volunteers to serve those in need living in these communities and who are willing to know the people they are serving.
The St. Vincent de Paul Society in Juneau serves the poor by providing housing, housing assistance, food and other services. Like the other organizations St. Vincent de Paul gives volunteers the opportunity to encounter our neighbors who are less fortunate.
There are other ways that we can serve and encounter the poor in our communities and we do not have to serve alone. We can serve together with our families, friends and church communities to make these connections as we are reminded that we are all sons and daughters of Christ. Hopefully, our encounters with the poor won’t be a once a year activity, but a reminder that we should encounter the poor on a regular basis to be disciples of Christ.
Pope Francis concluded his message announcing the second World Day of the Poor saying, “On this day, may all of us feel that we are in debt to the poor, because, in hands outstretched to one another, a salvific encounter can take place to strengthen our faith, inspire our charity and enable our hope to advance securely on our path towards the Lord who is to come.”