article yesterday highlighting the Pope's speeches and visits planned for Thursday during his U.S. visit. First the Pope will address a joint session of Congress, which is a truly a momentous occasion. 60 years ago this would have been unthinkable because the loyalty of Americans was considered suspect in the common culture. Many assumed that Catholics had the ultimate goal of installing the Pope in the White House and turning the U.S. over to him. To go from that unfounded fear to the Pope actually addressing Congress is truly historic. And in many ways Congress is the most powerful group of people on the earth. Their budget run in the billions and their decisions have international repercussions.
But then the Pope will go from there and address Catholic Charities, which ministers to the poor and the marginalized. This is the most important group the Pope will address. Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms that those who minister to the poor will be recognized by Jesus and receive eternal life, but those who do not minister to the poor will not be recognized by Jesus and will go to hell. Jesus said it, not me, just check Matthew 25:31-46. In a homily once, I quoted Archbishop Chaput when he said, "If we ignore the poor we, will go to hell." I earned some nasty letters for that one because in my naivete I used the word "gay" and "hell" in the same homily, even though they weren't at all connected.
If we don't recognize how much we need the poor, if we don't recognize them as a sure path to Jesus, then we will miss Jesus entirely. The Pope is going to address some very important people on Thursday, but look with the eyes of faith and recognize who the truly important ones.