15th November 2020 is World Day of the Poor.
“Stretch forth your hand to the poor” (Sir 7:32). Age-old wisdom has proposed these words as a sacred rule to be followed in life. Today these words remain as timely as ever. They help us fix our gaze on what is essential and overcome the barriers of indifference. Poverty always appears in a variety of guises, and calls for attention to each particular situation. In all of these, we have an opportunity to encounter the Lord Jesus, who has revealed himself as present in the least of his brothers and sisters (cf. Mt 25:40).
The ability to stretch forth our hand shows that we possess an innate capacity to act in ways that give meaning to life. How many outstretched hands do we see every day!
A hand held out is a sign; a sign that immediately speaks of closeness, solidarity and love. In these months, when the whole world was prey to a virus that brought pain and death, despair and bewilderment, how many outstretched hands have we seen!
This pandemic arrived suddenly and caught us unprepared, sparking a powerful sense of bewilderment and helplessness. Yet hands never stopped reaching out to the poor. This has made us all the more aware of the presence of the poor in our midst and their need for help. Structures of charity, works of mercy, cannot be improvised. Constant organization and training is needed, based on the realization of our own need for an outstretched hand.
This year’s theme – “Stretch forth your hand to the poor” – is thus a summons to responsibility and commitment as men and women who are part of our one human family. It encourages us to bear the burdens of the weakest....
At the same time, the command: “Stretch forth your hand to the poor” challenges the attitude of those who prefer to keep their hands in their pockets and to remain unmoved by situations of poverty in which they are often complicit.
We cannot be happy until these hands that sow death are transformed into instruments of justice and peace for the whole world.
An outstretched hand, then, can always be enriched by the smile of those who quietly and unassumingly offer to help, inspired only by the joy of living as one of Christ’s disciples.
These extracts from the message of Pope Francis for World Day of the Poor highlight the significant symbol of the outstretched hand.