Of Course, I Could be Wrong

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Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest ( on abortion )

Pro-animal-life advocates are so much more sensible, realistic and compassionate than pro-human-life advocates.

Don’t jump to conclusions, I believe abortion is a bad thing. But I also believe that letting a woman die rather than letting her have an abortion is illogical and cruel and not something that most people (including pro-lifers) would ever do to a dog.

The Art Of Store

I went grocery shopping yesterday. I had to queue for ages at the check-out as the line was so long. There were three other tills open and there was hardly anybody queueing for them, but nobody in my queue even thought of going to them. This was because the cashiers at those other tills were men whilst our cashier was a middle-aged woman and wise supermarket shoppers, veterans like myself, know that for a low-stress shopping experience you must always choose female cashiers over male ones and the older they are the better.

The reason for doing so is that women are happy to take their time putting your groceries through and will match their checking-out speed to your bagging-up speed. Men, on the other hand, especially young ones, see the check-out process as a challenge in which they must get those groceries priced up as fast as possible. You would think it was an Olympic sport. Heck, there are even some male cashiers who commit the ultimate sin of starting to put your groceries through before you have finished taking them out of your trolley (there is no part of hell deep enough for such offenders.

Of, course, this is a general rule and there are speed-freak women and considerate men who buck the trend. But it is a good general rule, and I am always happy to queue considerably longer in order to take advantage of it.

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest ( The Corbyn Referendum )

If Jeremy Corbyn wants to get back the support of working-class voters who voted to leave the E.U., he should add a third option to his proposed referendum – Brexit without a customs union. That would be fair and would allow left-wing Brexit supporters to vote Labour without sacrificing the possibility of losing what they originally won, full sovereignty and immigration controls on E.U. migrants. As it stands at present they are going to vote Conservative and we are going to lose the only chance we are ever going to get to bring in radical socialist legislation.

For Remaining And An Election

I see that Hugh Grant is prepared to campaign with any candidate in the upcoming general election who is not a Tory and is determined to derail Brexit and make sure the U.K. stays in the European Union.

I think it’s great that he is willing to prostitute himself for a change.

Fundraiser

My dear friends, it is that time of year when you are bombarded with appeals to your charity by many and various organisations and, once again, I am among that happy band of beggars.

I have been a self-supporting, internet priest since 2010, relying entirely on the generosity of friends to keep my online ministry up and running and my head above water financially speaking. Every month, I receive about five hundred pounds in regular donations and, although this is not a fortune (or even a decent wage), I manage to get by. However, what this regular giving does not cover is the cost of keeping the Saint Laika website online and any big or unexpected bills that come my way. So, twice a year, in June and December, I run extra fundraisers to pay for the big stuff. Christmas is particularly expensive for me as I have to pay my annual website fees on top of all the other expenses incumbent upon this merry season of the year, chief of which is my wife’s present.

If you are willing and able to send a bit of your hard-earned (or otherwise) cash my way I really would be very grateful indeed. You can do so by clicking on the PayPal button below and following the instructions. You do not need a PayPal account to make a donation.

Whatever you decide, please keep the Saint Laika online Christian community and me, its minister and administrator, in your prayers and may the joy of the Christ child be with you and yours this Christmas and throughout the coming year.

Jonathan

The MadGang Go To Ulverston

Both Quiz and Edric, my two border collies, get extremely nervous when they hear fireworks being let off. If I know when displays are going to take place I can take precautions in order to minimise their distress. However, nowadays, unlike when I was a child, people have their firework parties whenever they want rather than just on the fifth of November and the days leading up to Guy Fawkes night and for many days afterwards are a nightmare for our canine friends and many other critters, both domestic and wild. So, this year we decided to try a more drastic plan of action in order to avoid the worst excesses of the so-called “firework season.” We booked a pitch on a campsite in the middle of a Lake District, near the village of Coniston, for ten days, which we hoped would be well away from the haunts of inconsiderate pyros.

It worked! During the ten days we were on the site, we only heard fireworks on two occasions and then the noise was short-lived and well away in the distance. I love it when a plan comes together.

Of course, we did not just sit there in our trailer all week; every day we managed to get a decent walk in even when the weather was less than clement. On our first full day in Cumbria, we set off to the town of Ulverston which is on the south coast of the Furness Peninsula. Here are a few photographs that I snapped during our time there.

*****

We arrived before lunch and started by giving the dogs a good run in Ford Park. This is a community park, run by volunteers, which nestles beneath Hoad Hill on which stands the Sir John Barrow Monument, which looks like a lighthouse but isn’t. After the boys had run around enough we visited the dog-friendly cafe in the park for a very satisfactory lunch.

After the park, we drove down to the sea-lock of the now disused, Ulverston Canal and went for a walk along its banks along with what seemed like the entire population of South Lakeland. I love the waterways of Britain. It is a great sadness to me that my unemployment means that we can no longer holiday on them like we regularly used to. However, we can still walk by them as there is no charge for doing so.

This photograph of Chapel Island with the coast of Lancashire in the far distance was taken from near the foot of the Ulverston Canal.

The Leven Viaduct was built to carry trains on the Furness Railway line across the Leven Estuary.

It is possible to traverse the Leven Estuary on foot. The mudflats are extremely dangerous and taking the wrong route can be fatal. The tide comes in very fast and people staying too long on the flats have been drowned, even in very recent times. Therefore, although the byway is marked on Ordnance Survey maps it is necessary to employ an experienced guide should you be determined to attempt the crossing.

A Blue Boo Hoo Hoo Story

So, there is this film called “Blue Story” that has recently been released. It’s about gang culture and boys falling in love with girls and all that. It does not glorify violence. In fact, it sounds like it is an all-black West Side Story sort of deal but, instead of having some of the most beautiful music ever written on its soundtrack, it has some of the worst.

Anyway, some real-life gang members have taken to mobbing cinema’s where the film is showing with knives and machetes, causing havoc and fear among the regular patrons. After suffering sixteen such attacks, the management of one cinema chain has decided to stop showing the film, which makes good economic sense if nothing else as footage of machete-wielding fifteen-year-olds attacking police being shown on television could lead to people staying away from cinemas at danger of being targeted by young yobs.

Today, the director of the film, Mr Rapman, is all over the BBC news saying that the withdrawal of the film from being shown is racist; that it is just another example of the white man putting up “hurdles” between himself and the success he so richly deserves.

No, mate. It is no white man’s fault that your target audience cannot behave itself like young adults in a modern, democratic nation should behave when in public. Your homeboys have let you down, not “the establishment.” They have also let down the managers of the cinema chain who have been proactively encouraging diversity and equality for years. And, anyway, this isn’t a racial issue. It just so happens that the badly behaved boys in this situation are predominantly black. Back in the fifties, it was white teddy-boys smashing up the cinemas and scaring the bejeezus out of “ordinary, decent folk” whilst “Blackboard Jungle” was showing on the big screen.

Enough of the inverted racism. Grow up and get real!

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest

The recent legislation passed by the Israeli government which took away Israeli citizenship from anyone living in Israel who is not a Jew has led me to the conclusion that Jewish people want the right to join any club they want to join (to stop them from doing so is labelled antisemitic) whilst banning anybody else from joining their club.

Defending The Homeland

In an article in The Times today, the chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, has accused Jeremy Corbyn of allowing a “poison sanctioned from the top” to take root in Labour, saying Jews are justifiably anxious about the prospect of the party forming the next government.

In his perfectly timed attack on Corbyn, Mirvis lets slip what all these accusations of antisemitism against the Labour Party have all been about.

He writes, “How complicit in prejudice would a leader of Her Majesty’s opposition have to be to be considered unfit for office? Would associations with those who have incited hatred against Jews be enough? Would describing as ‘friends’ those who endorse the murder of Jews be enough? It seems not.”

Who are these antisemitic “friends” that he is referring to? Well, Corbyn has never had anything to do with extreme right-wing, home-grown groups such as the National Front and the British National Party but he has often spoken out on behalf of Palestinians and been in dialogue with Palestinian organisations that the government of Israel, rightly or wrongly, calls terrorists. What the Chief Rabbi is saying is that anybody who supports Palestinian aspirations in the Holy Land or is, simply, critical of the Israeli government, is antisemitic. He is using an accusation of racism to reduce the possibility of Labour being elected into power because, if they did win then the UK’s attitude towards Israeli would not be as friendly as it traditionally has been.

Is this a conspiracy? No. Jewish people, wherever they live, need no organising when it comes to defending their ethnic interests; they have had thousands of years of practice and they have a right to lobby politicians. What is wrong is the way they are using the cruel oppression of their people over the centuries as a political weapon in order to thwart criticism of Israeli oppression of the Arab peoples in Palestinian territories and within the state of Israel itself.

It’s A Gas

I am very suspicious of the big push towards getting us to drive electric cars. Yes, it’s a cleaner form of transport on the street but the production of electricity will still involve carbon fuels or nuclear waste creating atomic energy (there is no way that renewables will provide so much power in the foreseeable future). Secondly, electric engines do not have the pull of an internal combustion engine which means that they are impractical for trucks, trailer pulling vehicles or any plant used for heavy work such as earth-moving. Thirdly, car-owners who do not have their own private driveway will find it difficult (many will find it impossible) to charge their vehicles overnight. Fourthly, having to wait, at least, half an hour to recharge your car’s battery every two hundred miles is going to create all sorts of problems and have a negative effect on our economies.

I predict that electric cars will prove to be one of the most expensive mistakes our governments will ever make and it will be an unnecessary mistake as hydrogen-powered transport would avoid all these problems. It is completely clean and can be dispensed at “gas” stations the same way petrol is now. It also has the same pulling power as diesel. Okay, at the moment it is slightly more expensive than electric but this will change if funding and effort it is put into its development.

So, why is hardly anyone promoting this answer to all our environmental dreams? Could it be anything to do with the fact that it will take control of power production away from the oil companies and the nuclear industry as the only ingredient needed to manufacture it is water?

One more thing, it can be used as a domestic fuel. In fact, up until the roll-out of natural gas, it was what provided the heat to cook the meals of most households in the U.K. and elsewhere. It can be produced locally by local companies or even councils which would get rid of the need to dig up areas of natural beauty for massive pipelines.

Check out this recent press release from Newcastle University for more information on the employment of hydrogen as an energy source.

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest (election special)

Never in the history of England has a Conservative Party leader made it more blatantly obvious why you should never vote Tory unless you are a member of the privileged elite and loaded and yet Corbyn is still going to blow it. This is because he is an arrogant, attention-seeking man who gets his kicks out of boasting that he has devoted his life to standing up for people who he actually considers to be intellectually and morally inferior to himself. So much so, that he will throw an election rather than listen to them and give them what they asking for rather than what he thinks is good for them.

Mad Facts

During the first three and a half centuries of the Moravian Church’s existence, marriage partners were often chosen by the drawing of lots, which is very similar to the exchange
of car-keys at a wife-swapping party, only more permanent, of course.

Bad Shepherd

When my bishop, Martin Wharton, was sacking me for being sick with depression I complained that during the two years I spent in and out of hospital he had only visited me once and that was to ask me when I would be back at work.

He replied, “You’re not my only priest, Jonathan.”

My God Is Bigger Than Your God!

Addressing the public in a sermon today, Tehran’s interim Friday Prayers leader, Ayatollah Seyyed Ahmad Khatami, said, by the help of God, the great and vigilant Iranian nation once again thwarted the enemies’ plots last week, which were aimed at undermining the country’s security under the disguise of public protests. He added that the US was at the head of recent evils in Iran.

Ayatollah Khatami said, “One of the manifestations of God’s help is to thwart enemy conspiracies. This is divine favour. Believe in God and, God is with us.”

I assume this is a different god to the one who divinely favours America who is, obviously, nowhere near as good as the Iranian god.

What’s In A (Man’s) Name?

The man’s name “George” has a long tradition of being adopted by women who were not being taken seriously because of their girlie names. Today is the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of George Eliot, the English writer who had to change her name from Mary Ann Evans to George in order to have a homosexual relationship with a married man (this being considered far less of a scandal in her day than living in sin).

But she was not the only binominal author in history. Before her, the French hippie-chick, Amantine Lucile Dupin changed her name to George Sands even though, honestly, nobody would have ever mistaken her for a bloke. It is widely accepted that in more recent times, the openly polemical, Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw, as well as George Harrison from the 1960’s boy-band, The Beatles and the hard-drinking, Liverpool footballer, George Best were all ladies who made the choice to grow a beard and change their name in order to take part in occupations that God obviously intended to be reserved for members of his favourite sex, the male of the species.

But men have fought back with many of them entering careers that are only fit for women such as cookery and nursing. Nature has a way of balancing itself out.

Kids Today

A report in the Australian edition of The Guardian today claims that, according to a recently published study, Aussie and Kiwi children are amongst the most inactive in the world. Nearly ninety percent of them do not meet the recommended target of an hour of moderate exercise a day.

A lot of things have changed during my lifetime but the biggest change is probably in the way children spend their time. I feel so sad for the kids of today. They have no freedom to explore or take risks and their world is so small. We have memories of childhood, some good, some bad, but they will have no memories of any worth to bring to mind in their own twilight years.

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest

When blogging began, we talked to each other on the internet about all sorts of things (political, theological, philosophical and scientific). Now the limit of our discourse is somebody posting on Facebook that Donald Trump is a bad thing, which soon gets over a thousand likes and hundreds of comments all of which merely reiterate that Donald Trump is a bad thing.

Honestly, dumbing down has never been dumber.

Fake Faith Leads To Plenty Of Opportunities To Make Money

President Donald Trump’s personal pastor and spiritual advisor Paula White is asking followers to give her $229 in order to receive ‘prophetic instruction’ on how to defeat the enemies in their lives this November. In an email to her newsletter subscribers Thursday, White said she has “prayerfully focused on November as a month for a victory over enemies” and said dark spiritual forces are stopping her believers from achieving a “complete breakthrough in every area of your life.”

The request for money in exchange for this so-called prophetic instruction comes just two weeks after the Trump administration appointed White to head up the White House’s new Faith & Opportunity Initiative, which was founded by executive order last year.

Full story at Newsweek.

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest (on referendums)

We should make it a law that if, god forbid, a future prime-minister should ever decide to ask us, the people, our opinion on a particular matter in a referendum, then there has to be a referendum before that referendum asking us if we want a referendum, yes or no.

On the whole, I think the people of the United Kingdom would prefer not to be bothered about political stuff, especially if it might lead to unpleasantness, and we only voted one way or the other in the EU referendum because we were cajoled into it.

Ever since the disaster that was the English Civil War we have remained a generally unified people by our firm commitment to having or, at least, feigning a complete disinterest in politics other than during the four weeks immediately preceding a general election. We are in danger of losing this unity forever because of some berk who decided it would be a good idea to ask us what we thought about a bunch of foreigners. Big mistake!!!

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest (cross purposes)

I am not an overly fussy eater but I have always hated broad (fava) beans. When I was a kid my mother would insist on cooking them and putting them on my dinner plate. She tried to persuade me to eat them by explaining that they were good for me. She was, no doubt, telling the truth but she was wasting her breath. The reason I refused to eat them had nothing to do with their nutritional value. It was because I hated the taste of them.

The above is the parable of the Remainer and the Brexiteer and it has been written to explain why so many comments by liberals on social media platforms begin with the words, “I don’t understand why they…”

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest

It is not about whether a person or people are right or wrong (it may be that there is no right or wrong in the situation). It is about accepting the validity of another person’s beliefs and the sincerity with which they hold to them. This attitude is only authentic when there is the possibility of being convinced by them. Anything else is condescension.

Not Lording It Over Others

The pilgrims arrive early and from all over, gathering hours before daybreak in an old pecan grove that surrounds a country church. They come, they say, for a dose of simple decency and devotion wrapped up in a Bible lesson. The teacher is the thirty-ninth president of the United States, Jimmy Carter.

Full Story at The Washington Post

The Beatitude Of The Poor

A message from Pope Francis for the upcoming World Day of the Poor

“The hope of the poor will not perish forever” (Ps 9:19)

These words of the psalm remain timely. They express a profound truth that faith impresses above all on the hearts of the poor, restoring lost hope in the face of injustice, sufferings and the uncertainties of life.

The psalmist describes the condition of the poor and the arrogance of those who oppress them (cf. 10, 1-10). He invokes God’s judgment to restore justice and overcome evil (cf. 10, 14-15). In his words, we hear an echo of age-old questions. How can God tolerate this disparity? How can he let the poor be humiliated without coming to their aid? Why does he allow oppressors to prosper instead of condemning their conduct, especially in the light of the sufferings of the poor?

This psalm was composed at a time of great economic development that, as often happens, also led to serious social imbalances. The inequitable distribution of wealth created a significant number of poor people, whose condition appeared all the more dramatic in comparison with the wealth attained by a privileged few. The psalmist, observing the situation, paints a picture as realistic as it is true.

It was a time when arrogant and ungodly people hounded the poor, seeking to take possession even of what little they had and to reduce them to bondage. The situation is not much different today. The economic crisis has not prevented large groups of people from accumulating fortunes that often appear all the more incongruous when, in the streets of our cities, we daily encounter great numbers of the poor who lack the bare necessities of life and are at times harassed and exploited.

The words of “Book of Revelation” come to mind: “You say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing. You do not realise that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked.” (Rev 3:17).

The centuries pass, but the condition of rich and poor remains constant as if history has taught us nothing. The words of the psalm, then, are not about the past, but about our present, as it stands before God’s judgement.

Today too, we must acknowledge many new forms of bondage that enslave millions of men, women, young people and children.

Daily we encounter families forced to leave their homeland to seek a living elsewhere; orphans who have lost their parents or were violently torn from them by brutal means of exploitation; young people seeking professional fulfilment but prevented from employment by shortsighted economic policies; victims of different kinds of violence, ranging from prostitution to the narcotics trade, and profoundly demeaned. How can we overlook, too, the millions of immigrants who fall victim to any number of concealed interests, often exploited for political advantage, and are refused solidarity and equality and all the homeless and ostracised persons who roam the streets of our cities?

How many times do we see poor people rummaging through garbage bins to retrieve what others have discarded as superfluous, in the hope of finding something to live on or to wear? They themselves become part of a human garbage bin; they are treated like refuse, without the slightest sense of guilt on the part of those who are complicit in this scandal. Frequently judged parasites on society, the poor are not even forgiven their poverty. Judgment is always around the corner. They are not allowed to be timid or discouraged; they are seen as a threat or simply useless, simply because they are poor.

To make matters worse, they can see no end to the tunnel of extreme poverty. We have come to the point of devising a hostile architecture aimed at ridding the streets of their presence, the last places left to them. They roam from one end of the city to the other in the hope of getting a job, a home, a sign of affection. The least offer becomes a ray of light; yet even where justice might be expected to prevail, they meet with violence and abuse. Forced to work endless hours under a burning sun to gather seasonal fruits, they receive ridiculously low pay. They labour in unsafe and inhumane conditions that prevent them from feeling on a par with others. They lack unemployment compensation, benefits or even provision for sickness.

The psalmist describes with brutal realism the attitude of the rich who rob the poor: “They lie in wait that they may seize the poor and drag them off in their net.” (cf. Ps 10:9)

As in a hunt, the poor are trapped, captured and enslaved. As a result, many of them become disheartened, hardened and anxious only to drop out of sight. In a word, we see before us a multitude of poor people often maligned and barely tolerated. They become for all effects invisible and their voice is no longer heard or heeded in society. Men and women who are increasingly strangers amid our houses and outcasts in our neighbourhoods.

The setting of the psalm is tinged with sadness at the injustice, the suffering and the disappointment endured by the poor. At the same time, it offers a touching definition of the poor: they are those who “put their trust in the Lord” (cf. v. 10), in the certainty that they will never be forsaken. In the scriptures, the poor are those who trust. The psalmist also gives the reason for this trust: they “know” the Lord (cf. ibid.). In the language of the “Bible,” such “knowledge” involves a personal relationship of affection and love.

Impressive and completely unexpected as this description is, it simply expresses the grandeur of God, as shown in the way he relates to the poor. His creative power surpasses all human expectations and is shown in his being “mindful” of each individual (cf. v. 13). It is precisely this confidence in the Lord, this certainty of not being forsaken, that inculcates hope. The poor know that God cannot abandon them; hence, they live always in the presence of the God who is mindful of them. God’s help extends beyond their present state of suffering in order to point out a path of liberation that profoundly strengthens and transforms the heart.

Scripture constantly speaks of God acting on behalf of the poor. He is the one who “hears their cry” and “comes to their aid;” he “protects” and “defends” them; he “rescues” and “saves” them. Indeed, the poor will never find God indifferent or silent in the face of their plea. God is the one who renders justice and does not forget (cf. Ps 40:18; 70:6); he is their refuge and he never fails to come to their assistance (cf. Ps 10:14).

We can build any number of walls and close our doors in the vain effort to feel secure in our wealth, at the expense of those left outside. It will not be that way forever. The “day of the Lord,” as described by the prophets (cf. Am 5:18; Is 2-5; Jl 1-3), will destroy the barriers created between nations and replace the arrogance of the few with the solidarity of many. The marginalisation painfully experienced by millions of persons cannot go on for long. Their cry is growing louder and embraces the entire earth.

In the words of Father Primo Mazzolari: “The poor are a constant protest against our injustices; the poor are a powder keg. If it is set on fire, the world will explode.”

We can never elude the urgent appeal that scripture makes on behalf of the poor. Wherever we look, the word of God points to the poor, those who lack the necessities of life because they depend on others. They are the oppressed, the lowly and the downcast.

Yet, faced with countless throngs of the poor, Jesus was not afraid to identify with each of them: “Whatever you did to one of the least of these my brethren, you did to me.” (Mt 25:40)

If we refuse to make this identification, we falsify the Gospel and water down God’s revelation. The god that Jesus came to reveal is a father who is generous, merciful, unfailing in his goodness and grace. He gives hope especially to those who are disillusioned and lacking in hope for the future.

How can we fail to note that the beatitudes with which Jesus began his preaching of the kingdom of God open with the words: “Blessed are you who are poor” (Lk 6:20)? The meaning of this paradoxical message is that the kingdom of God belongs to the poor because they are in a position to receive it. How many poor people do we encounter each day? It seems that the passage of time and the advances of civilisation increase their numbers rather than diminishing them. Centuries go by and the beatitude appears even more paradoxical: the poor are always poorer and today they are poorer than ever. Yet Jesus who inaugurated his kingdom by placing the poor at the centre wanted to tell us precisely this: he inaugurated the kingdom, but he has entrusted to us, his disciples, the task of carrying it forward with responsibility for giving hope to the poor. Especially at times like our own, there is a need to revive hope and to restore confidence. This responsibility is not something that the Christian community may underestimate. The credibility of our proclamation and the witness of Christians depend on it.

In closeness to the poor, the Church comes to realise that it is one people, spread throughout many nations and called to ensure that no one feels a stranger or outcast, for it includes everyone in a shared journey of salvation. The situation of the poor obliges us not to keep our distance from the body of the Lord, who suffers in them. Instead, we are called to touch his flesh and to be personally committed in offering a service that is an authentic form of evangelisation. Commitment to the promotion of the poor, including their social promotion, is not foreign to the proclamation of the Gospel. On the contrary, it manifests the realism of the Christian faith and its historical validity. The love that gives life to faith in Jesus makes it impossible for his disciples to remain enclosed in a stifling individualism or withdrawn into small circles of spiritual intimacy, with no influence on social life.

Recently, we were saddened by the death of a great apostle of the poor, Jean Vanier, whose dedication opened up new ways of showing solidarity with the marginalised and working for their advancement. God gave Jean Vanier the gift of devoting his entire life to our brothers and sisters with grave disabilities, people whom society often tends to exclude. He was one of those saints “next door;” thanks to his enthusiasm, he gathered around himself great numbers of young people, men and women, who worked daily to give love and restore a smile to many vulnerable persons, offering them a true “ark” of salvation from marginalisation and solitude. His witness changed the lives of countless persons and helped the world to look differently at those less fortunate than ourselves. The cry of the poor was heard and produced an unwavering hope, creating visible and tangible signs of a concrete love that even today we can touch with our hands.

The option for those who are least, those whom society discards is a priority that Christ’s followers are called to pursue, so as not to impugn the Church’s credibility but to give real hope to many of our vulnerable brothers and sisters. Christian charity finds concrete expression in them, for by their compassion and their willingness to share the love of Christ with those in need, they are themselves strengthened and confirm the preaching of the Gospel.

The involvement of Christians in this World Day of the Poor and especially in the events of everyday life goes beyond initiatives of assistance. Praiseworthy and necessary as they may be, they should have the goal of encouraging in everyone a greater concern for individuals in any kind of distress. Loving attentiveness is the beginning of true concern for the poor and the promotion of their genuine welfare. It is not easy to be witnesses of Christian hope in the context of a consumerist culture, a culture of waste concerned only for the spread of shallow and ephemeral wellbeing. A change of mentality is needed, in order to rediscover what is essential and to give substance and verve to the preaching of the kingdom of God.

Hope is also communicated by the sense of fulfilment born of accompanying the poor not for a brief moment of enthusiasm, but through a constant commitment over time. The poor acquire genuine hope, not from seeing us gratified by giving them a few moments of our time, but from recognising in our sacrifice an act of gratuitous love that seeks no reward.

I ask the many volunteers, who merit recognition for being the first to see the importance of such concern for the poor, to persevere in their dedicated service. Dear brothers and sisters, I encourage you to seek, in every poor person whom you encounter, his or her true needs, not to stop at their most obvious material needs, but to discover their inner goodness, paying heed to their background and their way of expressing themselves, and in this way to initiate a true fraternal dialogue. Let us set aside the divisions born of ideological and political positions, and instead fix our gaze on what is essential, on what does not call for a flood of words, but a gaze of love and an outstretched hand. Never forget that the worst discrimination which the poor suffer is the lack of spiritual care.

Before all else, the poor need God and his love, made visible by “the saints next door,” people who by the simplicity of their lives express clearly the power of Christian love. God uses any number of ways and countless means to reach people’s hearts. Certainly, the poor come to us also because we give them food, but what they really need is more than our offer of a warm meal or a sandwich. The poor need our hands, to be lifted up; our hearts, to feel anew the warmth of affection; our presence, to overcome loneliness. In a word, they need love.

At times, very little is needed to restore hope. It is enough to stop for a moment, smile and listen. For once, let us set statistics aside: the poor are not statistics to cite when boasting of our works and projects. The poor are persons to be encountered; they are lonely, young and old, to be invited to our homes to share a meal; men women and children who look for a friendly word. The poor save us because they enable us to encounter the face of Jesus Christ.

In the eyes of the world, it seems illogical to think that poverty and need can possess saving power. Yet that is the teaching of the apostle, Paul, who tells us: “Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Cor 1:26-29). Looking at things from a human standpoint, we fail to see this saving power, but with the eyes of faith, we see it at work and experience it personally. In the heart of the pilgrim people of God there beats that saving power which excludes no one and involves everyone in a real journey pilgrimage of conversion, to recognise the poor and to love them.

The Lord does not abandon those who seek him and call upon his name: “He does not forget the cry of the poor.” (Ps 9:12), for his ears are attentive to their voice. The hope of the poor defies deadly situations, for the poor know that they are especially loved by God and this is stronger than any suffering or exclusion. Poverty does not deprive them of their God-given dignity; they live in the certainty that it will be fully restored to them by God himself, who is not indifferent to the lot of his lowliest sons and daughters. On the contrary, he sees their struggles and sorrows, he takes them by the hand, and he gives them strength and courage (cf. Ps 10:14). The hope of the poor is confirmed in the certainty that their voice is heard by the Lord, that in him they will find true justice, that their hearts will be strengthened and continue to love (cf. Ps 10:17).

If the disciples of the Lord Jesus wish to be genuine evangelisers, they must sow tangible seeds of hope. I ask all Christian communities and all those who feel impelled to offer hope and consolation to the poor, to help ensure that this World Day of the Poor will encourage more and more people to cooperate effectively so that no one will feel deprived of closeness and solidarity.

May you always treasure the words of the prophet who proclaims a different future: “For you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings.” (Mal 3:20 [4:2])

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