Our call to live the Gospel life as Franciscans, demand that we be in proximity with the poor and be attentive to their cry. It is because we are Christians that we are to live in solidarity with the suffering! Yet, in some way, and somehow, we have allowed ourselves to become estranged from one another, which makes it even more challenging to respond to the cry of the poor. Take notice of your response when you find yourself in front of a person in need.
Imagine that you are stopped at a red light, and, in your periphery, you see someone who is asking for your attention and for your help. Do you find yourself purposely gazing at the red light? Or do you allow for a brief encounter to occur with the individual needing your help?
How do we become attentive to the cry of the poor? We become attentive by being honest with ourselves. Saint Francis of Assisi did so and became radically available. He made it his intention to befriend in practical ways, and people took notice. Francis of Assisi used his hands, mouth, and feet to courageously proclaim the Gospel.
For a moment, look at your hands… look at your palms. Have they recently touched, carried, or given something generously away? Or have they spent most of their time clenched? How do you use your hands? Have you been taught to be gentle with your hands? My hands have prayed with family members who lost loved ones after the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, and most recently to bless federal agents who were tasked to care for over 300+ corpses awaiting a place of burial.
Now reflect on your mouth and your lips… Do they spend most of the day frowning and snarling at people, or do they radiate a smile and bring laughter to people around you, even strangers? Do you use your mouth to speak kindly? My mouth has brought me to speak and share hope and to share smiles with unaccompanied minors in detention centers who are waiting to be reunited with their families.
Think of your feet… Do your feet move you in the direction of people who are lonely and in need of some kindness? My feet have had me accompany, walk with and walk along with college students who feel overwhelmed in today’s world and are in need of God’s mercy.
We are usually moving so quickly that we often fail to notice when someone needs our love, our presence. If we are honest, we tend to hesitate or not care that much. We feel more comfortable in not helping because it is easier to avoid new and uncomfortable situations. Yet, we are called to be courageous in living the Gospel, not comfortable. Saint Francis responded to the cry of the poor by being gentle, by being attentive, by listening, and by offering accompaniment even when it was uncomfortable. This is how we can respond to the cry of the poor.