The Pope marked the first World Day of the Poor with a Mass attended by 6,000 poor and homeless people

People have a basic choice in the way they live: either striving to build up treasures on earth or giving to others in order to gain heaven, Pope Francis has said.

“What we invest in love remains, the rest vanishes,” the Pope said in his homily on Sunday, the first World Day of the Poor.

Between 6,000 and 7,000 poor people attended the Mass in St Peter’s Basilica, where altar servers included the poor, migrants or homeless.

The first reader at the Mass, Tony Battah, is a refugee from Syria. Those presenting the gifts at the offertory were led by the Zambardi family from Turin, whose 1-year-old daughter has cystic fibrosis.

Some 1,500 poor people joined the Pope in the Vatican’s audience hall for the meal, while the other special guests were served at the Pontifical North American College – the US seminary in Rome – and other seminaries and Catholic-run soup kitchens nearby.

Preaching about the Gospel “parable of the talents” (Mt 25:14-30), Pope Francis said the servant in the story who buried his master’s money was rebuked not because he did something wrong, but because he failed to do something good with what he was given.

“All too often, we have the idea that we haven’t done anything wrong, and so we rest content, presuming that we are good and just,” the Pope said.

“But to do no wrong is not enough. God is not an inspector looking for unstamped tickets; he is a Father looking for children to whom he can entrust his property and his plans.”

If in the eyes of the world, the poor they have little value, he said, “they are the ones who open to us the way to heaven; they are our ‘passport to paradise.’ For us it is an evangelical duty to care for them, as our real riches, and to do so not only by giving them bread, but also by breaking with them the bread of God’s word, which is addressed first to them.”

Thinking it is “society’s problem” to solve, looking the other way when passing a beggar or changing the channel when the news shows something disturbing, are not Christian responses, Pope Francis said.

“God will not ask us if we felt righteous indignation,” the Pope said, “but whether we did some good.”

True goodness and strength are shown “not in closed fists and crossed arms, but in ready hands outstretched to the poor, to the wounded flesh of the Lord.”