Pope Francis’ enjoyed a Sunday lunch today of lasagna, chicken nuggets, mashed potato and tiramisu with 1,500 people in need, less well-off, and poor (see photos below). 

The event in the St. Paul VI Hall was part of today’s World Day of the Poor, an annual observance Pope Francis established in 2016 at the end of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. 

“Now we're all going to have lunch together,” the Pope said on arriving in the hall shortly before 12.30pm. “We thank those who have brought us lunch, those who will serve us lunch. 

“We thank everyone and we pray to God that He will bless us all,” he added. “God’s blessing on all, all of us here. May God bless each of us, bless our hearts, bless our intentions, and help us to move forward. Amen. And have a nice lunch!”

Seventy volunteers from Rome parishes as well as staff from voluntary associations were involved in making the lunch happen. The food was provided by the Hilton Hotel chain.

Young people from the Shrine of Pompeii played music at the festive lunch, and at end of the event, the famous Italian pasta maker, Pastificio Rummo, donated more than 1,500 bags containing a kilo of pasta to those present and to the associations.

 

Jesus' Reassurance

Earlier the Pope celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s basilica for 6,000 poor and volunteers to mark the day, whose theme for 2018 is taken from Psalm 34: “This poor man cried and the Lord heard him” (see the full message, released in June, here).

Rather than the day’s Gospel reading, the Pope reflected in his homily on Matt. 14:22-33 about Jesus’ walking on water to meet his disciples in a boat being tossed about by waves. He noted several lessons Jesus teaches in the Gospel passage

The first, he said, is “the courage to leave” a “comfortable life” of success and living “to accumulate” and instead to go “against the current.” The Lord rouses us from our “idle calm,” “safe harbors” and “moorings of self-absorption” in order to set out on the road “to God and to our neighbour,” the Pope explained. 

A second lesson Jesus teaches is to “reassure” his followers that by walking on the sea, he is, in effect, “trampling on the malign foes of humanity” such as “the devil, sin, death, fear, worldliness” and urging his disciplines to “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”  

“The boat of our life is often storm-tossed and buffeted by winds” and the storm can “seem to be our only problem,” the Holy Father said. But he added that the main issue is not the storm but rather “how we are navigating through life” and stressed the importance of inviting “Jesus on board” the boat “so that he can steer the route.”

“Today, let us invite Jesus into the boat of our life,” he said. “Like the disciples, we will realize that, once he is on board, the winds die down and there can be no shipwreck.” Comforted by the Lord’s reassurance, he continued, “we will be able to bring true comfort to others.” 

A third lesson the Lord teaches, the Pope said, is that “he stretches out his hand” to Peter who fears and doubts, and this is the “beginning of faith” which casts off pride that makes us feel “self-sufficient” and instead realize we are “in need of salvation.” Faith grows in this climate, he said, and this is why it is important “for all of us to live our faith in contact with those in need.” 

 

Stretch Out Your Hand

It is not a “sociological option, the fashion of a single pontificate” but a “theological requirement,” the Pope added, which entails acknowledging we are all “beggars pleading for salvation,” especially the “poor whom the Lord loves.” 

A fourth lesson is that by hearing Peter’s cry for help, the Lord shows us how to hear the “cry of the poor” which the Pope identified as “the stifled cry of the unborn”, starving children, young victims of war, the friendless, those forced into migration, “the elderly, cast off and abandoned to themselves,” and all who are victims of injustice which he called “the perverse root of poverty.” 

“The cry of the poor daily grows louder but is heard less and less,” the Pope observed, adding it is “drowned out by the din of the rich few, who grow ever fewer and more rich.” 

“We Christians cannot stand with arms folded in indifference” but instead learn from these lessons of Jesus, the Pope exhorted. “Do we have eyes to see, ears to hear, hands outstretched to offer help? Or do we keep repeating: ‘Come back tomorrow’?,” the Pope said. 

“The Lord stretches out his hand, freely and not out of duty. And so it must be with us,” he added. “We are not called to do good only to those who like us” but to give to those “who have nothing to give back, to love gratuitously.”  

He urged the faithful to look around to see what can be done “completely for free” without the need to be repaid. “That will be our outstretched hand,” he said, “our true treasure in heaven.”

“Stretch out your hand to us, Lord, and take hold of us,” the Pope prayed in closing. “Help us to love as you love. Teach us to leave behind all that is passing, to be a source of reassurance to those around us, and to give freely to all those in need. Amen.”

 

Photographs below by CNA/EWTN's Daniel Ibanez: