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To ignore the poor is to despise God, pope says at general audience
By JUNNO AROCHO ESTEVES
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — How Christians treat the poor is the clearest demonstration of their relationship with God, Pope Francis insisted.
“To ignore the poor is to despise God! And we must learn this well: To ignore the poor is to despise God!” the pope said May 18 during his weekly general audience.
The pope focused on the Gospel parable of the rich man and Lazarus and said the story is a reminder of the “harsh reproach” that will come at the final judgment for those who ignore the needs of the poor.
Lazarus represents both “the silent cry of the poor of all time and the contradiction of a world in which vast wealth and resources are in the hands of a few,” the pope said.
By excluding Lazarus, the pope said, the rich man “made himself the center of everything, closed in his world of luxury and waste.”
In the parable, the rich man has no name, he noted, while Lazarus’ name — which means “God helps” — is mentioned five times.
“Lazarus, lying at the door, is a living reminder to the rich man to remember God, but the rich man does not welcome this reminder. Thus, he is condemned not because of his wealth, but for being incapable of feeling compassion for Lazarus and helping him,” the pope said.
Only in death and in suffering the torments of hell does the rich man remember Lazarus’ name, the pope said. And then the rich man asks Lazarus for help while in life he pretended to not see him.
“How many times so many people pretend to not see the poor; for them the poor do not exist!” the pope lamented.
The parable offers a clear warning that the mercy of God “is tied to our mercy toward our neighbors” and if one’s heart is closed, even “God’s mercy cannot find space” to enter.