Just Gospel: Pope Francis’ Intention for Priests and the Poor

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June 22, 2019

Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Kathleen Murphy offers a reflection on Pope Francis’ June intention for priests and the poor.

We are asked to participate in prayer with Pope Francis for the intention: That priests, through the modesty and humility of their lives, commit themselves actively to a solidarity with those who are most poor. Pope Francis’ reflections on the Beatitudes, particularly on the pure of heart relate to this intention. He writes: “This Beatitude speaks of those whose hearts are simple, pure and undefiled, for a heart capable of love admits nothing that might harm, weaken or endanger that love. Certainly there can be no love without works of love, but this Beatitude reminds us that the Lord expects a commitment to our brothers and sisters that comes from the heart. For ‘if I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have no love, I gain nothing’. A heart that loves God and neighbor, genuinely and not merely in words, is a pure heart; it can see God. Keeping a heart free of all that tarnishes love: that is holiness.

Here is a true story about a nine year old boy who lived in a rural town in Tennessee that seems to speak to this month’s prayer as well as to a holiness rooted in purity of heart and simplicity grounded in poverty.

His house was in a poor area of the community. The pastor came knocking on his door one Saturday afternoon. The boy came to answer the door and greeted him. The pastor asked if his parents were home, and the little one told him that his parents take off every weekend and leave him at home to take care of his little brother. The man couldn’t believe what the boy had said but he asked if he could come in and talk with the boy. They went into the living room and sat down on an old couch with the foam and springs exposed. The pastor asked the boy, “Where do you go to church?” The young boy surprised the visitor by replying, “I’ve never been to church in my whole life.” They talked. The pastor shared some stories of Jesus with the fascinated child. Finally, they prayed for quite some time and then the pastor asked if he could pick the boy up for church the next morning. “Sure,” the nine year old replied.

The pastor got to the house early the next morning and gave the boys a couple of donuts for breakfast on their way to church. Keep in mind that this boy had never been to church before. The church was a real big one. The child just sat there, clueless of what was going on.
A few minutes into the service, these tall unhappy guys walked down to the front and picked up some baskets. The kid, with utter fascination, watched them walk up and down the aisles. He still didn’t know what was going on. All of a sudden, like a bolt of lightning, it hit the boy what was taking place. These people must be giving money to Jesus. He then reflected on the free gift of love he had received. He immediately searched his pockets, front and back, and couldn’t find a thing to give Jesus.

By this time the basket was being passed down his row and, with a broken heart, he just grabbed it and held on. He finally let go and watched it pass on down the row. He turned around to see it passed down the rows behind him. And then his eyes remained glued on that basket as it was passed back and forth, all the way to the rear of the church. Then he had an idea. This little nine year old boy, in front of God and everybody, got up out of his seat. He walked about eight rows back, grabbed the usher by the coat sleeve and asked if he could have the basket for a moment. Then he did the most astounding thing I have ever heard of. He took the basket, set it on the carpeted church floor and stepped into the center of it. As he stood there, he lifted his little head up and said, “Jesus, I don’t have anything to give you today, but just me. I give you me!” – Author Unknown.

Let us, along with all priests, and all those who strive to be pure in heart, join that little one in giving our poor gift to the one who loves us so.

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