Holy Family

Holy Family

Friday, September 23, 2011

Feast of Saint Padre Pio

Good morning. A few years back I attended a leadership conference and a number of the leaders of this leadership conference were singing the praises of our current government leadership. Now several more million people living in poverty and considerably more folks standing in the unemployment line later these same people are sitting around tables strategizing over how to eliminate poverty. I only pray that they arrive at some different answers from those which we have been looking to since the days of LBJ and the “Great Society.” The cry is going forth that we need to change how we view the poor, and I couldn’t agree more and it needs to be at the foundation of the programs we design to address their needs; we need to redirect our efforts from current misdirected efforts that perpetuate the problem and return to bolstering those basic things which have always effectively addressed the issues. If we are in need of inspiration regarding our attendance to those in need we should direct our attention to the Book of Deuteronomy where we are reminded to walk after the Lord Our God and that He will look after the needs of the poor. We don’t need to be too innovative; we just need to get back to the basics.

There is no doubt that we need to be about helping the poor, for to do otherwise would be to dismiss the very core principles of our faith. As Pope Benedict noted in his recent address to the German Parliament: “To this defense of man belong not only these fundamental criteria of what it means to be human, but above all and very specifically, love, as Jesus taught us in the account of the final judgment (Mt 25): God will judge us on how we respond to our neighbor, to the least of his brethren. Readiness to help, amid the needs of the present time and beyond our immediate circle, is an essential task of the Christian.” As Christians we are called to respond, but I do not believe that we can continue limiting our perspective to those things which clearly have not worked, and neither do we need to be about re-inventing the wheel. Such thinking has resulted in nothing but increased dependency, and worse, creating an objectification of those folks looking for the answers to their own individual impoverishment. We need to get away from programs that simply provide resources or entice participation for the duration of the proposed fix, or make things any more complicated than it is. Now, I wouldn’t propose to be so bold as to suggest I have a ready fix for each individual’s situation and cause for their unique and personal situation, but what I do know is that for each and every situation there is an answer and it is found in today’s Gospel. “Then he said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter said in reply, "The Christ of God." For as our Saint whom we commemorate today, Padre Pio reminds us "Love is the first ingredient in the relief of suffering." Many of the programs currently in place which propose to eliminate the problem actually contribute to some of the causes of poverty—the individual’s lack of dignity, self-worth and confidence. We need to get away from social programs which simply provide resources or which suggest the need to entice individual motivation to change. We need to find ways to direct people’s lives to find an understanding that God is with them and that with Him all will work out in the end.

There are some fairly consistent things which time and again can be found to exist amongst those who look to social agencies for help raising themselves out of poverty, and these often can be reduced to lifestyle. Now, it is evident that for a number of the people included within this country’s current 46 million poor their problems are situational and the result of economic changes in the last couple of years and fixable; and this has resulted in considerable public outcry of late regarding the current rate of joblessness and the unprecedented poverty rate. Of course, in the words of Archbishop Dolan, “this is not the time to make excuses or place blame.” Nevertheless, the bulk of poverty in this country is ongoing and the result of situations that are likewise fixable, but it will require different approaches than simply stimulating the economy. It is not my intent to use a broad brush in looking at this situation, but many of the solutions for eliminating poverty point to decisions people make regarding their life choices. We need to look to repairing those basic social structures which have always served society well toward directing people’s lives. The numbers repeatedly point to situations regarding fatherlessness, divorce, level of education, and drug usage as having direct cause and effect with people finding themselves in poverty. If there is any one clear solution to the problem of poverty it seems to be that of repairing some of our basic systems beginning with the very basic systemic unit—the family. I do not propose to have any clear answers or solutions for eliminating poverty nor the situations leading to the problem but it seems that if the leading contributing factors of poverty are those just mentioned it would behoove us to design social programs which would address those issues. Whatever we decide to do toward resolving the issue of poverty in this country, it must begin as noted previously-- with love. As Pope Benedict notes: Great acts of charity become concrete only when, on the ground, we find persons totally at the service of others; they make the love of God credible.”

I couldn’t help but laugh this morning when I read Forbes Thought Of The Day, a quote by William Faulkner: “The last sound on the worthless earth will be two human beings trying to launch a homemade spaceship and already quarreling about where they are going next.” We don’t need to be making the problem any more complicated than it already is; we just need to go back to the basics—LOVE. Make a great day!

Today we recall the good life, gifts, and works of Saint Padre Pio.

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