Years ago I heard a saying and it has always stayed with me: “I gave bread to the hungry and people called me a saint. I asked why people were hungry and people called me a communist”.
Of course, there is a story behind the saying. As the Church works to respond to the needs of the poor, she has consistently developed programs and services to meet the identified needs. Sometimes these are soup kitchens and food pantries, there are neighborhood medical dispensaries and hospitals as well as all types of educational initiatives and programs such as orphanages and safe houses for folks in need. The list is long as the needs are many.
Most of the time, Christians see this work as appropriate and flowing from their life as faithful believers. Yet when the Church actually asks the question “WHY” there are so many people who are suffering and in need and “WHY” policies, government practices, financial systems, and more are not helping and maybe contributing to the problems, some of the faithful are uncomfortable. Sometimes we have heard that the Church should stay out of politics – not take positions about matters such as immigration, fair wages, international aid, global poverty, arms control, and so much more. And so it is, many are comfortable giving bread to a hungry person and not pleased with asking what is wrong that there are so many hungry people.
The work of the Church is now and has always been deeply involved at all levels of human life. It simply is not possible to separate our belief in a loving God and our responsibility to our neighbor. At one of the annual Archdiocesan Justice Convocations, the keynote address given by Fr. Bryan Hehir, a good friend who is a nationally recognized scholar in the area of Faith and Government, outlined that the two pillars of our Catholic Faith are Spirituality and Social Justice. He taught that the life of spirituality reaches its fullest expression in the work of social justice. Father Hehir summed up this area saying, “The work of the Church is healing the world”.
All of us realize this world needs a lot of healing. Our lives of faith not only offers us the healing and hope each of us deeply needs, but also equips us to ad dress other issues that cry out for attention. The work of the Church in social justice is broad and the areas of concern are many. The following is a list of some of the more compelling areas: budget – federal and state; children and child care, addiction, criminal justice; death penalty; domestic abuse; health care; housing/homelessness; human rights; hunger; human trafficking and environmental justice. This is by no means an exhaustive list. A number of these issues were addressed a few years ago during the visit of Pope Francis to our country.
As we move into the winter months and the holiday season, let us remember that as Catholic Christians we have a duty to respond to the real needs of our neighbors, near and far. Furthermore, we have an obligation to ask “Why” to the suffering of so many in our neighborhoods and across the globe.
Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time November 16/17, 2019
In today’s Gospel Jesus suggests that his disciples must be prepared to suffer ridicule, persecution and perhaps even death if they are to follow Him.
Sometimes we may wonder if enduring ridicule and scorn are what we really signed up for when we received the sacraments of initiation.
Would we not rather sneak through life as painlessly as possible?
Good stewards take their faith seriously and find comfort in the closing words of today’s Gospel: “You will be hated by all because of my name but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.
By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”
Let us make it part of our daily prayer routine to ask the Holy Spirit for the courage to act in Jesus’ name no matter the consequences.