How and why to love the poor
On 13 June, Pope Francis gave us his message for the 5th World Day of the Poor, which will take place on 14 November 2021. As all the women of WUCWO, who wish to sentire cum Ecclesia (“think and feel with the Church”), we have to prepare ourselves and our organisations; that’s why I recommend you to read and meditate on the Pope’s message. We can pray with it.
The Holy Father begins his message by commenting on the passage in Mark's gospel in which a woman got into a house in Bethany and poured a bottle of precious perfume on the head of Jesus, who was eating there. It was an unusual initiative, for it was not always done in this way, as is shown by the astonishment and the various interpretations that this gesture aroused.
What a feminine action! Driven by her “empathy” with Jesus, the woman finds the way to please the Lord, who had surely arrived on foot, on dusty paths, with high temperatures and considerable fatigue. She uses something very characteristic of women: an exquisite perfume.
Moreover, she is not afraid of the “what will they say” of others who, like Judas “the traitor”, may judge her negatively. Jesus, on the other hand, reacts by exclaiming: “Leave her alone, why are you upsetting her? What she has done for me is a good work. You have the poor with you always” (Mk 14:6-7). And the Pope adds: “Jesus was reminding them that he is the first of the poor, the poorest of the poor, because he represents all of them. It was also for the sake of the poor, the lonely, the marginalized and the victims of discrimination, that the Son of God accepted the woman’s gesture.”
Once again the Pope understands women: “With a woman’s sensitivity, she alone understood what the Lord was thinking. That nameless woman, meant perhaps to represent all those women who down the centuries would be silenced and suffer violence, thus became the first of those women who were significantly present at the supreme moments of Christ’s life: his crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection. Women, so often discriminated against and excluded from positions of responsibility, are seen in the Gospels to play a leading role in the history of revelation.”
I ask Jesus to give this same “empathy” to us, women of WUCWO, so that we may grasp the intrinsic link between Him, the poor and our mission to proclaim the Gospel with a feminine face. I wonder if we are capable of “letting ourselves be evangelised by the poor” and of “sharing fraternally with them,” as the Supreme Pontiff never tires of repeating to us.
The poor are true evangelisers. This expression brings back memories like this: I was lost, having just arrived at Abuja airport in Nigeria, with no telephone or internet connection, no address to go to for the meeting I had been invited to (they had changed the venue at the last minute) and no one from the organisers to guide me. I went to a nearby, very poor parish on the outskirts of the city to ask for help. The first person I met was a simple woman whose dress had WUCWO written on it. As soon as I introduced myself, without asking for any credentials, she embraced me and welcomed me as if I were part of her family. She put herself at my disposal to start the search for where I had to go to attend the meeting. She showed me, by her actions, by welcoming me with such kindness and generosity, how much a simple woman values being a member of WUCWO and how to love one’s neighbour as oneself. If only I would react like that before every WUCWO woman in need! She evangelised me.
Sharing with the poor. Jesus shared his life with the poor. And what about us? Do we get involved in sharing his life or do we react with a certain indifference because “we always have them with us”? Says Pope Francis: “The poor are not people ‘outside’ our communities, but brothers and sisters whose sufferings we should share, in an effort to alleviate their difficulties and marginalization, restore their lost dignity and ensure their necessary social inclusion. […] Almsgiving is occasional; mutual sharing, on the other hand, is enduring. The former risks gratifying those who perform it and can prove demeaning for those who receive it; the latter strengthens solidarity and lays the necessary foundations for achieving justice.”
May our Holy Mother, who chose the poor as the bearers of her message in her apparitions at Lourdes and Fatima, teach us to love and serve the poor as She herself did and does with her heavenly motherhood.
María Lía Zervino, Servidora
WUCWO President General