Pope Francis' Prayer Intention for February, 2017: "That all those who are afflicted, especially the poor, refugees, and marginalized, may find welcome and comfort in our communities."
When Pope Francis celebrated the Way of the Cross during World Youth Day last summer in Krakow he asked questions that naturally arise when we encounter human suffering: “Where is God, if evil is present in our world, if there are men and women who are hungry and thirsty, homeless, exiles and refugees? Where is God, when innocent persons die as a result of violence, terrorism and war? Where is God, when cruel diseases break the bonds of life and affection? Or when children are exploited and demeaned, and they too suffer from grave illness? Where is God, amid the anguish of those who doubt and are troubled in spirit?”
He answered: “‘God is in them’. Jesus is in them; he suffers in them and deeply identifies with each of them. He is so closely united to them as to form with them, as it were, ‘one body’. Jesus himself chose to identify with these our brothers and sisters enduring pain and anguish by agreeing to tread the ‘way of sorrows’ that led to Calvary. By embracing the wood of the cross, Jesus embraced the nakedness, the hunger and thirst, the loneliness, pain and death of men and women of all times.”
When we welcome those who suffer into our communities we welcome Jesus. Pope Francis went on to say: “We are called to serve the crucified Jesus in all those who are marginalized, to touch his sacred flesh in those who are disadvantaged, in those who hunger and thirst, in the naked and imprisoned, the sick and unemployed, in those who are persecuted, refugees and migrants. There we find our God; there we touch the Lord. Jesus himself told us this when he explained the criterion on which we will be judged: whenever we do these things to the least of our brothers and sisters, we do them to him (Mt 25: 31-46).”
Elaborating on these words, Pope Francis said that if we ignore those who suffer we ignore, even deny, Jesus himself: “In the face of evil, suffering and sin, the only response possible for a disciple of Jesus is the gift of self, even of one’s own life, in imitation of Christ; it is the attitude of service. Unless those who call themselves Christians live to serve, their lives serve no good purpose. By their lives, they deny Jesus Christ.”
We pray that we, as individuals and communities, may never deny Jesus.