April 13, 2018

Our Works of Charity / David Bethuram

Gift of the resurrection enables us to pour out hope onto others

David BethuramFamilies in poverty suffer just as Jesus suffered while he was here on Earth. Like Jesus, poor families are looking for hope of a personal resurrection—deliverance out of poverty.

The path may be different, but consider these striking parallels:

Jesus was betrayed. Our social welfare systems were initially designed to be a safety net, but after 50 years, we see they have become more like cobwebs that keep people where they are. The system unintentionally sets families up for failure and they are betrayed by false promises.

Jesus was deserted. Families in poverty live in the shadows of society and are marginalized on a daily basis. In talking about the poor, Pope Francis said, “Those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or it’s disenfranchised—they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the ‘exploited’ but the outcast, the ‘leftovers.’ ”

Jesus was falsely accused. Families in poverty are often labeled as “lazy” and “free loaders.” The reality is that the majority are the working poor—hard workers with full-time, minimum wage jobs. It’s just not enough to get their basic needs met.

Jesus was rejected. Families in poverty are rejected on a daily basis, as though poverty is contagious through touch. Think about how many times we’ve heard “that’s a great project, but I don’t want it in my neighborhood.”

Through the resurrection, despair is turned to hope. The promise of Christ’s life, death and resurrection is that the story is not over. Through him, life and hope for the future are reborn. This is what families seek when they come to Catholic Charities.

The beauty of Christ’s gift to us is that it is also ours to share. As we consider the suffering and resurrection of Jesus, we must remember the suffering of the poor around us. Through the gift of the resurrection to us, we are able to pour out hope onto others. We can give hope because we have received it.

At Catholic Charities, we are called to live out our faith, which is shaped by Catholic social teaching. Here are a few of the ways this teaching informs our work:

Preferential option for the poor: We put the poor and vulnerable first. They take first priority. A basic moral test in any society is to ask how our most vulnerable members are faring. With a poverty rate in Indiana of 14.1 percent (compared with a national rate of 12.1 percent), we have some work to do.

Rights and responsibilities: As Catholics we believe that all people have basic rights, but we rarely talk about the responsibilities that come with them. We also believe that all people have basic rights, but they must be allowed to be accountable as well. Many of the people who come through our doors at our Catholic Charities agencies are for the first time invited to a partnership of service, rather than a handout.

Life and dignity of the human person: Protecting the dignity of life is not just about issues surrounding the beginning and end of life, but every stage in between. Each of our programs focuses on protecting the dignity of the person.

It is important for Catholics of all ages to become the hands and feet of Jesus on Earth, fighting to end poverty by caring for children, strengthening families and welcoming the stranger. We need to stand up for the marginalized. We need to pour out compassion and love onto the suffering and broken with prayer, service and action that brings the promise of resurrection to all.

(David Bethuram is executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Charities. E-mail him at dbethuram@archindy.org.)

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