Pope Francis has proclaimed Sunday, Nov. 19, as “World Day of the Poor.” It’s the first such observance celebrated by the Catholic Church and the theme chosen by the pope is “Love not in word, but in deed.” The highlight of this observance at the Vatican will be a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis, followed by a lunch for 500 people.
“Who are the poor? Where are they around me?” These are questions the Vatican asks Catholics to ponder for World Day of the Poor.
In his column on World Day of the Poor (see page 2), Bishop David Ricken poses other questions. “Perhaps, as we enter the holiday season, we might examine our guest list,” Bishop Ricken writes. “Is there someone God is calling us to invite that wouldn’t be able to repay our good deed?”
He goes on to explain that, while material possessions “are not bad in themselves, it is the way they affect us that can become sinful.” If our desire to acquire possessions prevents us from seeing the poor around us, then it’s time to review our priorities.
The same can be said for budget proposals: if they unfairly target the marginalized, they can become sinful. Right now, Congress is considering tax reform legislation that would raise income taxes on the working poor while at the same time offering tax cuts to the wealthy. “This is simply unconscionable,” says a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives released Nov. 9 by the U.S. bishops.
The three bishops who authored the letter — Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Fla., Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, N.M., and George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio — point to a report by the nonpartisan congressional Joint Committee on Taxation which says that households with an income of $20,000 to $40,000 per year will see taxes raised in 2023, 2025 and 2027.
“As written, this proposal appears to be the first federal income tax modification in American history that will raise income taxes on the working poor while simultaneously providing a large tax cut to the wealthy,” say the bishops.
Supporting such a bill sounds contrary to what Pope Francis and Bishop Ricken ask of us. Since the bill has yet to pass a final vote, let’s hope our elected leaders put more thought into the consequences this legislation can have on the nation’s poor.
There are other ways we can respond and put the needs of others first, especially the poor.
One suggestion comes from Bread for the World, a network of Christian organizations. The group’s goal is to end world hunger by 2030.
Bread for the World sees President Trump’s 2018 budget priorities, and the tax reform proposal, as direct challenges to their goal of ending world hunger. Last May, the organization began a campaign called “For Such a Time as This: A Call to Prayer, Fasting and Advocacy.”
“On the 21st of each month, faith leaders from across the United States … give up a meal or fast and pray for the day, calling on God to help end hunger,” Bread for the World’s website explains.
Why the 21st? “Because that is the day when SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) benefits for most families run out” each month, according to Bread for the World.
In addition to fasting and prayer, the group encourages people to advocate for the poor by writing letters and emails and calling members of Congress. The campaign continues each month throughout the 115th Congress, which ends Jan. 3, 2019. To learn more, go to www.bread.org.
Let’s take the theme of World Day of the Poor to heart: Love not in word, but in deed. Whatever deed it may be, let us find a way to make a difference.