The third Word Day of the Poor was observed on November 17, 2019. Pope Francis presided at Mass in St. Peter’s. Afterwards, he hosted a banquet for around 1,500 poor and homeless people from Rome.
In his message for the occasion, the Bishop of Rome announced:
“The economic crisis has not prevented large groups of people from accumulating fortunes that often appear all the more incongruous when, in the streets of our cities, we daily encounter great numbers of the poor who lack the bare necessities of life and are at times harassed and exploited.”
On the next day, the Morning Prayer (lauds) in the Catholic breviary included Psalm 29 as one of its components. This passage of scripture contains a cry of adulation, and one theme repeats throughout the Psalm: “the voice of the Lord.”
The voice of the Lord is heard over the waters, breaks cedars, makes mountains leap, slashes flames, and compels all creation to offer praise. Mightier than all of creation, the voice of the Lord overrules every power and symbol of strength.
People in poverty hear so many voices making demands on them, their labor, and their small amounts of wealth. Housing costs, student loans, payday creditors, medical bills, credit cards, working at home after hours, and regressive taxation yell at people in poverty and in the working class to give more. More time, more toil, more money.
All of the demands create a seemingly endless state of chaos and anxiety. However, there is hope for justice.
In the Genesis account of creation, the Spirit of God hovers above the waters and calls order out of chaos.
Echoing the Genesis narrative, Psalm 29 looks forward to hearing the One whose voice sounds over the raging waters. The poor and oppressed anticipate the authoritative voice of the Lord drowning out the voices of the cruelty, domination, and tyranny.
The Gospels recall the authoritative voice of the Creator hovering over the waters when they depict Jesus sitting in a boat to teach the crowds. Later, Christ was in a boat with his disciples when a squall arose. He ordered peace, and the storm and sea obeyed. In another instance, he walked on water during a storm and his disciples were rightly amazed. The Gospel message is the Creator is among us, and the Creator’s voice rings out above the raging waters.
In Advent, Christians celebrate the incarnation or Christ and anticipate his ultimate arrival when all things will be gathered together and “when this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality” (1Corinthians 15:54).
Recent stories of multibillionaires juxtaposed against stories of migrants fleeing from their war torn and economically desolate homelands with nothing but the clothes on their backs have highlighted the disparity of wealth in our world.
The Christian hope includes faith that these and all wrongs will be set right, the poor vindicated, and the oppressed set free. It is nothing less that the fulfillment of the Song of Mary.
He has shown the strength of his arm;
He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
Paradoxically, the voice of the Lord in Advent begins with the gurgle of an infant. The small, still voice in the silent night enters the world with the promise of being heard over the roaring waters not through violence but by love.
The Christian hope in Advent is one of justice: looking forward to love, charity, and compassion overruling all forms of inequality, animosity, and indifference.
While waiting, Christians are called to perform concrete deeds of love (which is another name for justice) that announce the presence and the coming of the One who scatters the proud, pulls down the mighty, and fills the poor with good things.