Pope Francis calls Christians to open their eye to world’s ‘forgotten and excluded’

A Year of Mercy. Pope Francis meets refugees at the Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesbos, Greece, April 16, 2016. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis had strong words for believers worldwide as he celebrated Mass for “the socially excluded” in St. Peter’s basilica on Nov. 13. The Jesuit pope pointed to “the tragic contradiction of our age,” the fact that “as progress and new possibilities increase, which is a good thing, less and less people are able to benefit from them.”

Denouncing this as “a great injustice that should concern us all,” the pope said, “We cannot go about our business quietly at home while Lazarus lies at the door. There is no peace in the homes of the prosperous as long as justice is lacking in the home of everyone.

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On Nov. 13 in cathedrals and sanctuaries throughout the world, the Holy Doors of Mercy are being closed. Pope Francis, who will close the Holy Door in St. Peter’s next Sunday, recalled this and urged believers to “ask for the grace not to close our eyes to God who sees us and to our neighbor who asks something of us.”

He encouraged them to “open our eyes to God, purifying the eye of our hearts of deceitful and fearful images, from the god of power and retribution, the projection of human pride and fear” and “to open our eyes to our neighbor, especially to our brothers and sisters who are forgotten and excluded” because “that is where the church’s magnifying glass is pointed.”

The morning Mass was attended not only by cardinals and bishops dressed in green vestments but also, at the pope’s explicit wish, 6,000 socially excluded women and men from 22 countries—people who are homeless, unemployed or suffering other hardships, who are surviving from day-to-day supported by Catholic and other charities in their homelands.

Pope Francis wanted such people to be present at this Mass for the “Jubilee of the Socially Excluded” as a reminder to the world of the hundreds of millions, perhaps over one billion, persons worldwide who are at the bottom of the social ladder, in similar or even worse conditions.

“When we speak of exclusion, we immediately think of concrete people, not useless objects but precious persons,” Pope Francis said in a homily that sought to awaken global consciences.

He denounced the fact that “the human person” whom “God put at the pinnacle of creation” is so “often discarded” in today’s world and “set aside in favor of ephemeral things.”

This “is unacceptable because in God’s eyes man is the most precious good,” he said. “It is ominous that we are growing used to this rejection,” he declared.

“We should be worried when our consciences are anaesthetized and we no longer see the brother or sister suffering at our side or notice the grave problems in our world, which become a mere refrain familiar from the headlines on the evening news,” Francis said during this last Mass of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which he will close in this basilica next Sunday, Nov. 20.

Then addressing the thousands of “socially excluded” seated in front row seats in St. Peter’s basilica, the pope told them in a soft voice: “Dear brothers and sisters, today is your Jubilee. Your presence here helps us to be attuned to God’s wavelength, to see what he sees.”

He reminded them that “Jesus sees not only appearances, but turns his gaze to the ‘humble and contrite in spirit,’ to the many poor Lazaruses of our day.”

Then turning to the prosperous and well-to-do believers and citizens in the wider world, he declared, “What harm we do to ourselves when we fail to notice Lazarus, excluded and cast out (cf. Lk 16:19-21)! It is turning away from God himself. It is the symptom of a spiritual sclerosis when we are only interested in objects to be produced rather than on persons to be loved.”

Speaking with passion throughout, Pope Francis reminded his audience that Scriptures tell us “that almost everything in this world is passing away, like running water,” but two “treasured realities” remain “like a precious stone in a sieve”:  the Lord and our neighbor.

“Everything else—the heavens, the earth, all that is most beautiful, even this Basilica—will pass away; but we must never exclude God or others from our lives.”

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