The Archdiocesan observance of ‘Justice, Peace and Community Week’ (JPCW) commenced on Saturday, November14, and ends on Saturday 21. The theme this year is the same theme that Pope Francis has chosen for his message for the 4th World Day of the Poor which is observed today: Stretch forth your hand to the poor (Sirach 7:32). This day was established by Pope Francis on November 20, 2016 to celebrate the end of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.
In his first apostolic exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel (2013), Pope Francis reminded Christians that working for justice is at the heart of discipleship. God’s call to justice in our scriptures is clear.
For example, Micah 6:8 states: “…this is what the Lord asks of you: only this, to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God.” The Prophet Amos called all individuals and nations to live in justice: “…let justice flow like water and integrity like an unfailing stream” (Amos 5:24).
Pope Paul VI reminded us that if we want justice, we must work for peace. In his recent encyclical, released on October 4, 2020, entitled: Fratelli Tutti (FT), on fraternity and social friendship, Pope Francis reminds us that we are all members of one human family.
We are “obliged to respect the right of all individuals to find a place that meets their basic needs and those of their families, and where they can find personal fulfillment” (#129, FT).
He urges us to respect and promote the inherent dignity of each person, made in God’s image and likeness, and to stand in solidarity with the stranger, the migrant, the refugee, the poor, those on the margins of society.
We are called to build justice, peace, community and the common good, creating conditions so that everyone can realise his/her potential. In his encyclical, Pope Francis uses the parable of the Good Samaritan to remind us of who our neighbour is and that: “the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well” (The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World).
In his Message for World Day of the Poor, he summons us to “responsibility and commitment…We cannot feel ‘alright’ when any member of the human family is left behind and in the shadows. The silent cry of so many poor men, women and children should find the people of God at the forefront, always and everywhere…by the grace of Christ she (the Church) can offer her witness and her gestures of charity. She likewise feels compelled to speak out on behalf of those who lack life’s basic necessities.”
He urges us to hear the cry of the poor, whom he says: “are a true presence of Jesus in our midst. Remember, how we will be judged on the last day: ‘As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me (Matthew 25:40)’.”
There are many in T&T who serve Christ in the poor. May the God of justice and compassion convert all our hearts so that we will stand in solidarity with the poor and marginalised.