There is no social or moral justification for homelessness, but we can find solace and meaning in the Incarnation, Pope Francis said Thursday during a visit to Catholic Charities in Washington D.C.
“The Son of God came into this world as a homeless person," the Pope said. “The Son of God knew what it was to start life without a roof over his head."
“We can find no social or moral justification, no justification whatsoever, for lack of housing. There are many unjust situations, but we know that God is suffering with us, experiencing them at our side. He does not abandon us."
“We know that Jesus wanted to show solidarity with every person. He wanted everyone to experience his companionship, his help, his love. He identified with all those who suffer, who weep, who suffer any kind of injustice."
Pope Francis visited St. Patrick’s Church, which is the oldest parish in Washington. The Church also serves as the headquarters of Catholic Charities in the city. The compound operates a homeless shelter and several food programs.
During his visit Thursday, the Pope also spoke to those who minister to the poor and homeless. He offered Saint Joseph as their patron and model because Saint Joseph grappled with injustice and suffering in his care for Mary and Jesus. The Pope reflected on the Holy Family’s arrival in Bethlehem, where they discovered there was no shelter for them.
“We can imagine what Joseph must have been thinking," the Pope said. “How is it that the Son of God has no home? Why are we homeless, why don’t we have housing?"
Saint Joseph’s simple questions echo in the minds of those who serve the poor even today.
“Like Saint Joseph, you may ask: Why are we homeless, without a place to live? …Why do these, our brothers and sisters, have no place to live? Why are these brothers and sisters of ours homeless? These are questions which all of us might well ask," the Pope said.
Saint Joseph never hesitated to ask questions in the face in injustice and suffering, the Pope said. But what set Saint Joseph apart was his faith in God, which gave him “the power to find light just at the moment when everything seemed dark."
“Faith sustained him amid the troubles of life," Francis reflected. “Thanks to faith, Joseph was able to press forward when everything seemed to be holding him back."
In the same way, faith can sustain the poor and give meaning to suffering, the Pope said.
“In the face of unjust and painful situations, faith brings us the light which scatters the darkness. As it did for Joseph, faith makes us open to the quiet presence of God at every moment of our lives, in every person and in every situation. God is present in every one of you, in each one of us."
“Faith makes us know that God is at our side, that God is in our midst and his presence spurs us to charity. Charity is born of the call of a God who continues to knock on our door, the door of all people, to invite us to love, to compassion, to service of one another."
The Pope said prayer is the antidote to insensitivity or apathy toward the suffering of others.
“Prayer unites us; it makes us brothers and sisters," he said. “It opens our hearts and reminds us of a beautiful truth which we sometimes forget. In prayer, we all learn to say “Father", “Dad". We learn to see one another as brothers and sisters."
“In prayer, there are no rich and poor people, there are sons and daughters, sisters and brothers. In prayer, there is no first or second class, there is brotherhood."
The Pope then led the crowd in praying the Our Father and offered his blessing before asking prayers for himself.