There are many different types of poverty and different causes for it.
The type of poverty that we are most familiar with is material poverty. It is the heart-wrenching destitution of those who do not have enough food to feed their families or do not have adequate shelter. We see it not only in the third world, but also in the developed countries in the form of homelessness, unemployment and lack of adequate health care. Sadly, with all the advances of science and the growth in wealth in so much of the world, we have not been able to eradicate so much of the needless suffering of our fellow human beings.
As painful as material poverty is, there is another type of need that we experience in our world today. It is spiritual poverty. In many ways, this is a hidden type of poverty. It can take place in rich countries as well as in poor ones. It can afflict those who live in wealthy suburbs as well as those living in slums.
When Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta came to the United States, she remarked that she had never seen so much spiritual poverty. Though she dealt with starvation and sickness on a daily basis in the streets of one of the world’s poorest cities, she saw a different kind of poverty in America. It was the loneliness of those who did not know their neighbors. It was the exhaustion of those who drove themselves to earn more and more at the expense of their families. It was the boredom and aimlessness of youth who bought into the lie that the only purpose for their existence was to experience more and more pleasure. No amount of food, technology or government spending could alleviate that type of poverty which is so pervasive in our modern societies.
Though material poverty is difficult to remedy, there is a cure for the spiritual poverty we suffer from. It is Jesus. Spiritual poverty is nothing else but the lack of God in our life. Our souls were created to be in relationship with our Heavenly Father. Nothing else can take the place of that deep need within us. Jesus was sent by the Father to reveal His love and restore our relationship with Him which had been broken through sin.
Saint Paul in the second reading explains that, before Jesus, there was a wall of enmity between us and God. It was a wall built up by human hatred, greed and pride. It served as a prison which we built brick by brick through our ignorance, fear and wickedness. At the same time, the God we longed for was on the other side of that wall. We could not knock it down on our own or climb over it. Through the cross, Jesus was able to destroy it and reunite us with our Heavenly Father. As Saint Paul explains, “...through him we...have access in one Spirit to the Father.”
If we are feeling lonely, if we are burdened with the weight of our sins, if we are exhausted from trying to live up to the world’s expectations, we need simply turn to Jesus for peace and refreshment. If we have lost our way in life, if we can see no purpose for our existence, if there is no joy in our hearts, Jesus can point out the way to a fuller life. If we feel isolated, unable to connect with others and uncomfortable in our own skin, the answer is Jesus who reveals to us that we are loved through and through by an Almighty God who created us and knows us.
In today’s gospel, Jesus takes pity on the crowd that had gathered to see Him. They were poor, tired and suffering people who needed a word of consolation. Though He and His disciples were worn out and had not even had the chance to eat, He could not help but reach out to them with the love of His Father.
Jesus never turns His back on us when we are suffering. Whatever type of poverty we may be experiencing, we can bring it to Him and expect that He will see us through it. Sometimes we feel that in a world with so many people, God could not possibly know or be concerned with our needs. But nothing could be further from the truth. He is an All-Powerful God. There are no limits to His knowledge and His power. He knows each of us better than we know ourselves and He loves us more than we love ourselves. No matter what, we can turn to Him and expect to receive an answer. It might not be the answer we want, but it will be exactly what we need.
That is why we gather here today. Here we experience what the world has longed for - communion with our Heavenly Father. We hear Him speak to us through His word and we taste the bread of Heaven. We experience the love of a God who did not spare His only Son for us. We can expect that He will provide for all our needs beside if we turn to Him with faith, confidence and trust.