Saturday, October 12, 2013

Devotion for today: make a difference

Matthew 25:35-40: For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Pope Francis is calling on all Catholics to work for social justice and perform charitable works with great enthusiasm and urgency. He stated while visiting a favela (slum) in Rio during his World Youth Day visit this year: “The measure of the greatness of a society is found in the way it treats those most in need, those who have nothing apart from their poverty. We do not judge our progress based on how the wealthiest are doing. Instead, we evaluate our greatness by observing how the most vulnerable are fairing. And then, whenever we see deficiencies, we are called to respond in faith.”
When visiting Lampedusa on July 8th, he made the following comment: "Today no one in our world feels responsible; we have lost a sense of responsibility for our brothers and sisters. We have fallen into the hypocrisy of the priest and the Levite whom Jesus described in the parable of the Good Samaritan: we see our brother half dead on the side of the road, and perhaps we say to ourselves: 'poor soul…!' and then go on our way. It’s not our responsibility, and with that we feel reassured, assuaged."

As Catholics we must feel responsibility for more than our own personal wealth and well being. Pope Francis is calling us to open our eyes and see our world in a new light, a light which shines in the darkest and poorest of places, and on social issues that enslave and dehumanize our fellow man. To begin with, we should take a look at how the Catholic Bishops Conference distinguishes between the two concepts.

“Charitable works and social justice have been called the two feet of Catholic social teaching. Charitable works meets the immediate needs of persons and families. It treats the symptoms of social problems. Charitable works calls forth a generous response from individuals and responds to particular situations. Social justice changes social structures that attack human dignity, oppress people, and contribute to poverty. It focuses on the rights of people, addresses underlying social causes, and works for long term social change. Pope Benedict XVI expresses it in this way, “The church cannot neglect the service of charity anymore than she can neglect the sacraments and the word. Charity must animate the entire lives of the lay faithful and therefore also their political activity, lived as ‘social charity.”

In caring for the poor, in feeding the hungry and in giving a hand to the elderly and weak in our neighborhoods, and in fighting for an end to human trafficking and other atrocities in the world, we can fulfill the commands of Jesus. All of this is done in completion of our plan for living: lots of prayer, frequent use of confession and reception of the Eucharist, attending Mass as often as possible, and making every attempt to learn, know and understand our faith. With this plan, we actually have no time to spend in useless activities. We can and must find a social cause that we feel God is drawing us to; we have to help those less fortunate around us. Don’t worry; once you ask God to make you an ambassador of mercy, He literally fills your life with people who need your attention.

Here are some ideas from the United States Bishops found on the above mentioned website. I think this gives us much food for thought. Also, check out your diocesan website for specific ways to make a difference.

Social Justice: Remove root causes and improve structures: find access to affordable housing; work to improve the educational system; extend legal protection to unborn children; support environmental protection laws; praticipate in a living wage campaign; promote peace; advocate for international assistance.

Charitable Works: Meet Basic Needs and Individual: volunteer at homeless shelters; tutor children; assist women who face a crisis pregnance; participate in a community beautification program; donate to food pantries and clothing closets; sponsor a refugee family; raise money for an overseas development project.

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