The doors of heaven are closed to those who close their hearts to the needs of the poor.
Pope Francis reminded the faithful of this reality during his weekly General Audience this morning in St. Peter’s Square, as he continued his catechesis for the Holy Year of Mercy, turning to Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus.
In his address, the Pope criticized the rich man’s ignoring poor Lazarus. “The rich man,” Francis said, “didn’t give any consideration toward God, but rather puts himself at the center of everything, closed in his world of luxury and waste.” In his exclusion , the Pope stressed, he did’t take into account the Lord, nor His Law.
“To ignore the poor,” Pope Francis declared, “is to despise God.”
Lazarus, the Pope suggested, represents “the silent cry of the poor in every time and place” and “the paradox of a world in which astonishing wealth coexists with scandalous poverty.”
In the second part of the parable, the Pope also discussed, we find Lazarus and the rich man after death, with the situation reversed: The rich man recognizes Lazarus and asks for help, while in life, he pretended not to see him.
“How many times do so many people pretend not to see the poor!” the Jesuit Pope said. “For them, the poor do not exist.”
The parable clearly warns, the Pope explained, that God’s mercy toward us is related to our mercy towards our neighbor. “When this is lacking,” he warned, God also won’t be merciful toward us.
“This is terrible,” Francis said.
How to Heal Withered Heart
To convert ourselves, the Pope explained, we should not expect miraculous events, but we must open our hearts to God’s Word, which calls us to love God and neighbor.
If one starts to listen to the Word of God, Francis explained, a withered heart can be revived and healed of its blindness.
“No messenger and no message will replace the poor we meet on the road,” the Pope stressed, “because in them we encounter Jesus himself: “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me (Mt 25: 40).”
Pope Francis concluded, reminding those gathered of Luke’s Gospel, which recalls that the Lord fills the hungry with good things, and sends the rich away empty.
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