This, said Pope Francis, is the mission of Jesus, and also the mission of the Church: to preach the Good News to the poor. Although the Gospel is addressed to everyone, he explained, Jesus nonetheless privileges those "who are farthest away, the suffering, the sick, those who are discarded by society." The poor, he concluded, "are at the centre of the Gospel."
But what does it mean to evangelize the poor? Above all, the Pope said, “it means being close to them, having the joy of serving them, freeing them from oppression, and all this in the name of and with the Spirit of Christ, because [Jesus] is the Gospel of God, He is the Mercy of God, He is the liberation of God.” The Holy Father asked us to consider whether we are making the evangelization of the poor a priority in our parishes, our associations and ecclesial movements. “Are we being faithful to Christ’s program?” he asked.
Bringing the Good News to the poor is not about giving social assistance, or about political activism, the Pope said. Rather, “It has to do with the strength of the Gospel of God, Who converts hearts, heals the wounded, transforms human and social relationships according to the logic of love.”
Pope Francis concluded his message with the prayer that Mary, “the Mother of Evangelizers,” would “help us to feel strongly the hunger and thirst for the Gospel that exists in the world, especially in the heart and the flesh of the poor – and obtain for each and every one of us, the whole Christian community, to bear concrete witness to the mercy that Christ has given to us.”
Below, please find Vatican Radio's translation of Pope Francis' remarks at the Sunday Angelus:
Dear brothers and sisters, good day!
In the Gospel of today, Luke the evangelist, before presenting the programmatic discourse of Jesus at Nazareth, briefly summarizes the work of evangelization. It is a work that He accomplishes with the power of the Holy Spirit: His word is original, because it reveals the sense of the Scripture; it is an authoritative word, because He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey (cf. Mk 1:27). Jesus is different from the teachers of His time. For example, Jesus didn’t open a school for the study of the Law, but went about everywhere to preach and teach: in the synagogues, in the streets, in the houses. Jesus also differs from John the Baptist, who proclaims the imminent judgement of God, while Jesus proclaims the forgiveness of God.
And now we enter, we imagine, into the synagogue of Nazareth, the village where Jesus lived until He was about thirty years old. What happened there is an important event, which delineates the mission of Jesus. He stood up to read the Holy Scripture. He opens the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and takes the passage where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.” Then, after a moment of silence full of expectation on the part of everyone, He says, to general amazement: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
To evangelize the poor: This is the mission of Jesus, according to what He Himself says; this is also the mission of the Church, and of every person baptized in the Church. To be Christian and to be a missionary is the same thing. To proclaim the Gospel, with words, and, even before that, with one’s life, is the principle end of the Christian community and of each of its members.
It is known that Jesus addresses the Good News to everyone, without excluding anyone; and yet, He privileges those who are furthest away, the suffering, the sick, those discarded by society.
But let us ask ourselves a question. What does it mean to evangelize the poor? It means above all being close to them, having the joy of serving them, freeing them from oppression, and all this in the name of and with the Spirit of Christ, because He is the Gospel of God, He is the Mercy of God, He is the liberation of God. It is He Who was made poor in order to enrich us with His poverty. The text of Isaiah, reinforced by some small adaptations introduced by Jesus, indicates that the messianic proclamation of the Kingdom of God that has come amongst us is addressed in a preferential way to the marginalized, to prisoners, to the oppressed.
Probably in the time of Jesus these people were not at the centre of the community of faith. And we can ask ourselves: today, in our parish communities, in the associations, in the movements, are we faithful to the program of Christ? Is the evangelization of the poor, bringing to them the good news, the priority? Be attentive: this isn’t about giving social assistance, much less about political activity. It has to do with the strength of the Gospel of God, Who converts hearts, heals the wounded, transforms human and social relationships according to the logic of love. The poor, in fact, are at the heart of centre of the Gospel.
May the Virgin Mary, Mother of evangelizers, help us to feel strongly the hunger and thirst for the Gospel that exists in the world, especially in the heart and the flesh of the poor – and obtain for each and every one of us, the whole Christian community, to bear concrete witness to the mercy that Christ has given to us.