July 10, 2020

Our Works of Charity / David Bethuram

The call to become a better neighbor to all

David Bethuram

The pandemic has given me a chance to reflect on God, life and what matters.

Even with technology and scientific advancements, there are a few things I have come to realize: God alone suffices; nothing is certain except God, and the common yearning of all humanity at this time is survival. With these in mind, we are invited at this time to rediscover how to be a neighbor to those we encounter and those who encounter us. But the question becomes how we can encounter people when there are policies that tend to make it hard for human interaction.

Since mid-March at the beginning of the pandemic shutdown, Catholic Charities has heightened our level of caring for our clients and one another. Our clients depend on us for their basic and ongoing needs. In the state of Indiana, we are considered an essential service to help families get through their day—with necessary food assistance, mental health services and direction to critical housing and health care needs.

We recognize the vulnerability of so many right now, and we are committed to see them through this trying time.

The vision of our faith and service is best seen in the parable of the Good Samaritan. As Catholics, we are called to be both Good Samaritans and good innkeepers, attending to those who have been beaten down by this pandemic.

The dual obligation of being both Samaritan and innkeeper comprises our response in mercy and justice to those who have been consigned to life on the margins. We may be wrestling with what our faith compels us to do—to serve people during a pandemic is a challenge that demands the direction of our faith.

My hope is that during this pandemic we all realize the necessity of human relationships and interaction. My hope is that the enlightenment gained will prepare all of us to re-evaluate our zeal and the ways we minister to people who come to us for hope and light. There are two statements of Jesus in the Gospels that must always and ever be kept in sight, to reflect and to act on. First, “whatever you did to the least of these, that’s what you did unto me” (Mt 25:40). And secondly, “I am going away, and the world won’t see me anymore, but you will, because you know me” (Jn 4:19).

Each of us are bearers of God’s hope, light, joy, mercy, forgiveness, comfort, but above all unconditional love. The test of our faith in God and a witness of our ministry is how we make that intentional choice to be neighbors to people we minister to through our works of charity.

The Church invites us to participate in this work of charity, letting our ministry to people be a lifestyle; one of God’s providence and benevolence, a lifestyle of hope and joy. We might wonder how this lifestyle could be possible. It is possible, but not easy. It is possible because the Holy Spirit lives in us. But it is not easy because we are still human and living in an imperfect world.

The grace of God allows us to begin. We must let love lead all our relationships and interactions. We then become neighbors to everyone who crosses our path in this pandemic and beyond.
 

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

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