We are in the final part of the gospel of Mark. Mark spends the last third of his gospel giving us almost a day to day detail of Jesus’s last week what we refer to as Holy Week, and the section today is from the Tuesday of that week.
Jesus has been at the temple and engages in dialog and in dispute with the leaders, but he has also used it as an opportunity to teach, as you might recall from last week, when he points out the widow who puts in her last two coins.
As it proceeds, Jesus is aware of what will be coming. And he knows that the expectations of the people will get disappointed because they were anticipating with his glorious entry into Jerusalem. They were anticipating that this would be the end of the Roman Empire at the end of the Roman control over their territory and that as the Messiah, he would be ushering in then the great revival of the Nation of Israel.
And so he knows that as the week proceeds, as the controversy grows and as the actions of his arrest, and his persecution and ultimately his crucifixion take place, they will lose hope. Well, they will see darkness coming upon them. And so he wants to prepare them for that.
Mark also uses it to prepare the community living in Rome for who he has written the gospel, prepare them for what they are experiencing. Rome has burnt. Some credit Niro with the fire, but Nero was the emperor and so he wasn’t going to take the blame for it. And so he passes the blame on to the Christians. And then proceed to institute a period of great persecution of the Christian community.
So again, that theme of darkness, it all seems to be ending. And Jesus wants them to be aware that the end is not the end. But there is hope.And the hope comes from the resurrection. And so he’s pointing to that as he dialogs with them.
And Mark, lifting that up, points to it as he writes to the community. And he says to them, despite the darkness of this moment, this hours of persecution. that is not the end, the end is the glory that you will have with God, the hope, the hope that’s borne of the resurrection and new life.
We don’t often think in those terms that hope is what is being projected. Because, again, we’re perhaps more used to the darkness. We’re used to the negative. We’re used to the horrors that surround us both in our personal lives and the lives of our community. And we become somewhat overwhelmed by those. And forget. That primarily the church. Us. Our community of hope.
It was with that intention that five years ago, at the end of the celebration of the Year of Mercy, that Pope Francis decided to establish on the third Sunday in ordinary time this Sunday, before we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, that he would establish the World Day of the Poor.
And he had a very particular intention in what he was doing by establishing that he didn’t want us to all of a sudden wallow in the sorrow, the misery of the poor. He wanted us to see how we as church could be the vehicle of hope. In the lives of the poor. Matter of fact, he didn’t even really want to use that word.
I remember an incident many years ago, I was doing a hearing in St. Louis with the archbishop at that time, and we were interviewing a group of people about the issues of poverty in that community.
And I’ll never forget this one woman got up because we kept using the word that we’re here to hear from the poor. And she got up and she said, I object.
Well, needless to say, you get a little nervous when somebody gets up and says, “I object”.
And we said, Well, what? What are your objections?
“I’m not poor. Yes, I’m disadvantaged, I lack resources. I lack opportunity. But I’m not poor. I’m very rich. In my person.”
And that’s really what Francis is aiming at for us to see.
Not the poor, those outcasts, those to the side. But to see the face of Christ. Matter of fact, in the document he issued, he says the poor. Are the sacrament of Christ. They are the vehicle by which Jesus is reaching out to us, asking us to join with him.
And that’s the key to this day of the poor. It’s to help us recognize that it’s not them. It’s us. We together. We together are one. And because we together are one when one of us is struggling, when one of us is going hungry or one of us is going homeless, or one of us is caught at the border between Belarus and Poland or at the border in Texas coming from Mexico, it’s us.
And because it’s us. The Holy Father is saying, because it’s us, then we must act. And our act must be more. Then merely financial, as important as that is, our action must be engagement with those who tend to be voiceless, our action must be engagement with them in trying to restructure the social order. So that all will have the opportunity. To realize their God given dignity, he has a very beautiful section in the document.
We are called to discover Christ in them, to lend them our voice in their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to understand them and to welcome the mysterious wisdom that God wants to communicate to us through them.
Our commitment does not consist exclusively of activities or programs of promotion and assistance, but the Holy Spirit. It is not an unruly activism, but above all, an attentiveness that considers the other in a certain sense as one with ourselves. Its loving attentiveness is the beginning of a true concern for their person, which inspires me effectively to seek their good.
As we gather at the table of the Lord, the Lord gives us witness to how he lives that in the Eucharist by sharing himself with us and hopes and prays that as we partake of the Great Sacrament, it will become for us the motto of our living.