I got back from the States several hours ago and, as is my wont after a trip, I immediately immersed myself in work. This is the first of two columns I’ll post today, with the second one dedicated to the beautiful wedding and magical reception I attended in Maryland over the weekend. The newlyweds are honeymooning in Italy. They arrived yesterday on their first stop, Rome and we hope to share dinner before they leave Friday morning to explore other parts of this beautiful nation.
That column will also explain why I did not post while in D.C.
In my absence, the two big news items were the canonization Sunday of seven new saints and – in a totally different direction! – plans by the Vatican real estate rental office to rent space in a Vatican-owned building within meters of St. Peter’s Square to McDonald’s restaurant. You cannot imagine the furor, especially comments by a number of cardinals who live in the building on whose ground floor McDonald’s is planned. (Full disclosure: I am totally on their side and will get into that when I look at this story in length: In the meantime, here’s a great piece by the Register’s Edward Pentin: https://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/mcdonalds-dispute-highlights-sensitivities-over-use-of-vatican-real-estate
By the by, there is no link intended between the McDonald story and the title I gave to the story about the papal audience catechesis!
THE FIRST CORPORAL WORK OF MERCY: FEED THE HUNGRY
Continuing his new series of weekly audience catecheses on mercy that focus on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, Pope Francis said at this morning’s audience, “in our catechesis for this Holy Year of Mercy, we have reflected on God’s mercy and our own responsibility, as followers of Jesus, to be ‘merciful like the Father’,” quoting the motto of this Jubilee Year. (photo news.va)
The Holy Father then noted that, “among the corporal works of mercy, the first is that of feeding the hungry,” underscoring that, “access to food and water is a basic human right, yet so many members of our human family, especially children, continue to suffer from hunger and thirst. While grateful for the generosity and solidarity shown in the case of many tragic situations worldwide, we must never forget that this work of mercy calls us to respond personally to concrete situations of need in our own lives.
“Saint James,” said Francis, “warns against ignoring the practical needs of our brothers and sisters, for faith without works is dead. In the miracle of the loaves and fishes, Jesus tells his disciples to provide food for the crowds, yet he shows them that, in sharing what they have, he will give it increase. Jesus himself is the bread of life, and he makes it clear that our relationship with the Father depends on the way we respond to the hunger and thirst of our brothers and sisters.
The Pope indicated that, to feed the hungry, we might donate time and/or money to charity but he said the real challenge to help the needy comes when we are asked to personally face poverty in the flesh. He said, ““poverty in the abstract doesn’t challenge us, it makes us think, lament, but when you see poverty in the flesh of a man, woman or child, yes, this challenges us.”
“To see our brothers and sisters in this state,” he said, questions “the attitude we have to run away, the attitude of running away from the needy and not drawing near to them.”
Expanding on St. James’ words “faith without works is dead,” he said when faith is dead, it is “incapable of doing works, of charity.” Francis observed that, “one of the consequences of so-called ‘well-being’ is to lead people to withdraw into themselves, making them insensitive to the needs of others.”
However, he explained, this way of thinking and acting makes us live as if our lives were “a fad to follow and change with every season.” Rather, we must deal with reality up close and personal and “meet urgent situations.”