“Poverty in the flesh of a man, a woman or a child: this challenges us”

Pope Francis, during the General Audience of 19 October 2016, explained the works of mercy and reflected on the meaning of “giving food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty”.

“How often the media,” said the Pontiff, “inform us of populations suffering from lack of food and water, with serious consequences especially for children. In the face of certain news and especially of certain images, public opinion is touched and aid campaigns are launched from time to time to stimulate solidarity. Donations are generous and in this way can help alleviate the suffering of many. This form of charity is important, but perhaps it does not involve us directly.

Instead, when we are walking along the road and we come across a person in need, or a poor person knocks at our door, it is very different, because we are no longer in front of an image, but we are ourselves involved. There is no distance between me and him or her, and I feel challenged. Abstract poverty does not interrupt us, although it makes us think, makes us complain; But when we see poverty in the flesh of a man, a woman or a child, this challenges us! And so, the habit that we have of escaping from the needy, of not approaching them, of distorting the reality of the needy through ways of avoiding it. In these cases, what is my reaction? Do I look away and step over them? Or do I stop to talk and ask how they are? Perhaps they are only asking for the most basic needs: Something to eat and drink. Let’s think for a moment: How many times do we recite the ‘Our Father’, yet we do not really pay attention to those words: “Give us this day our daily bread.”

“At the heart of our faith are works of mercy”

“In families, service takes a concrete form for everyone, especially the most needy”