Yesterday the Catholic Church celebrated the World Day of the Poor. The chosen theme for this year was “Stretch forth your hand to the poor” (Sir 7: 32), inviting an openness to people in need, especially in the difficult times of the pandemic. 

Who are the poor we need to stretch forth our hands to? 

According to a local survey, 20% of the Maltese population are struggling financially. This is not a small number, so it is not hard to encounter someone facing some difficulty and who would require our help. However help does not necessarily come in the form of financial aid, or by donating to a tv marathon for the poor. Whilst this is helpful, stretching forth your hand means more than that. It is living an attitude of service.

In yesterday’s homily Pope Francis repeated several times “Those who do not live to serve, serve for little in this life.”  He defined what he meant by to serve: “In the Gospel, good servants are those who take risks. They are not fearful and overcautious, they do not cling to what they possess, but put it to good use. For if goodness is not invested, it is lost, and the grandeur of our lives is not measured by how much we save but by the fruit we bear.” 

How many people spend their lives simply accumulating possessions, concerned only about the good life and not the good they can do. Yet how empty is a life centred on our needs and blind to the needs of others! The reason we have gifts is so that we can be gifts for others. And here, brothers and sisters, we should ask ourselves the question: do I only follow my own needs, or am I able to look to the needs of others, to whoever is in need? Are my hands open, or are they closed?”

May we heed the Pope’s message and stretch out our hand to the poor by living a life of service to those whom we meet daily.