To ignore the poor is to despise God, pope says at general audience

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

CITY (CNS) — How Christians treat the poor is the clearest demonstration of
their relationship with God, Pope Francis insisted.

ignore the poor is to despise God! And we must learn this well: To ignore the
poor is to despise God!” the pope said May 18 during his weekly general

pope focused on the Gospel parable of the rich man and Lazarus and said the
story is a reminder of the “harsh reproach” that will come at the
final judgment for those who ignore the needs of the poor.

represents both “the silent cry of the poor of all time and the
contradiction of a world in which vast wealth and resources are in the hands of
a few,” the pope said.

excluding Lazarus, the pope said, the rich man “made himself the
center of everything, closed in his world of luxury and waste.”

In the
parable, the rich man has no name, he noted, while Lazarus’ name —
which means “God helps” — is mentioned five times.

“Lazarus, lying at the door, is a living reminder to the rich man to
remember God, but the rich man does not welcome this reminder. Thus, he is
condemned not because of his wealth, but for being incapable of feeling
compassion for Lazarus and helping him,” the pope said.

Only in death and in suffering the torments of hell does the rich man remember
Lazarus’ name, the pope
said. And then the rich man asks Lazarus for help while in life he
pretended to not see him.

“How many times so many people pretend to not see the
poor; for them the poor do not exist!” the pope lamented.

The parable offers a clear warning that the mercy of God
“is tied to our mercy toward our neighbors” and if one’s heart is
closed, even “God’s mercy cannot find space” to enter, Pope Francis
told those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

“If I don’t throw open the door of my heart to the
poor, that door remains closed, even to God, and this is terrible!” the
pope said.

The rich man’s request to send Lazarus to warn his family is
a reminder that Christians should not wait for a miraculous event to convert,
but “to open their hearts to the word of God, which calls us to love God
and neighbor.”

“No messenger and no message can substitute the poor we
meet along the way because through them we meet Jesus himself. Thus, the
mystery of our salvation is hidden in the reversal of fortunes the parable
describes, in which Christ links poverty to mercy,” the pope said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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