Holy Family

Holy Family

Friday, April 20, 2012

Feast of Saint Agnes of Montepulciano

Good morning. There is much material want in America today, there is even considerably more poverty. There are those who would suggest that we here in America do not do a very good job attending to the needs of the poor. There are arguments from all directions as to what is best toward alleviating the extensive amount of material need that exists. In today’s Gospel, and throughout the Gospels Jesus is quite clear regarding our obligations for attending to those in need, and He offers us a look at what needs to be done toward attending to the poverty which exists around us. In today’s Gospel we read of Jesus’ attending to the need of those present, he attends to their hunger, both materially and spiritually. That is precisely what we likewise are called to do. Pope Benedict in his papal letter, Deus Caritas Est, sums up quite clearly our obligation to attend to the needs of others in a like manner as Jesus did. 

 “Love—caritas—will always prove necessary, even in the most just society. There is no ordering of the State so just that it can eliminate the need for a service of love. Whoever wants to eliminate love is preparing to eliminate man as such. There will always be suffering which cries out for consolation and help. There will always be loneliness. There will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love of neighbor is indispensable.  The State which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person—every person—needs: namely, loving personal concern. We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need. The Church is one of those living forces: she is alive with the love enkindled by the Spirit of Christ. This love does not simply offer people material help, but refreshment and care for their souls, something which often is even more necessary than material support. In the end, the claim that just social structures would make works of charity superfluous masks a materialist conception of man: the mistaken notion that man can live “by bread alone” (Mt 4:4; cf. Dt 8:3)—a conviction that demeans man and ultimately disregards all that is specifically human.” 

 There are many that simply suggest that it is a matter of simply providing more government programs, others suggest that we simply need to stimulate the economy and it all will trickle down to those most in need. Whatever the answer there is certainly one conclusion to all of it and that is that the needs of the people in this country are not unlike those who were present on that hillside long ago needing to be fed both physically and spiritually. It is not just a matter of material needs. There is no doubt that where it concerns the poor in this country we absolutely do not measure up in attending to their needs, but it is likewise true that what we have been doing isn’t working, and it doesn’t take much of a look to realize that the poverty goes well beyond there being food on the table and clothes in the closet. The problem goes well beyond government entitlement programs, church soup kitchens, and well meaning ‘out-of-poverty’ programs. There is a spiritual poverty which underlies much of the poverty which exists in our society, and this spiritual impoverishment is not limited to those on the other side of the tracks. 

 My wife and I had the pleasure of listening to Michael Reagan speak last night at a Right to Life Banquet in Evansville, and I was struck by a point he made regarding the amount of children who are presently in the care of government foster care programs. There are nearly 480,000 children in our nation’s foster care system on any given day, and more than 123,000 of them are available for adoption right here in America? He suggested that if each church across this country were to find just one family to take in just one child the government would be out of the foster care business. As it is, the direction we are going in this country is just the opposite. The current government is working diligently toward putting the Church out of the business of providing foster care, adoption services, and other human services. The point is that as a country we are increasingly becoming more and more spiritually impoverished, and if we are to be able to even make a dent in the material needs of the poor we need to attend better to the spiritual needs.

 Mind you, this is not just limited to those on the other side of the tracks. Studies indicate that among women fifteen to forty-four years old who have dropped out of high school, more than half of those who give birth do so while unmarried. And this is true not only of those at the bottom of the economic ladder. Among those considered to be middle class—nearly half of the women who give birth are unmarried. Yes, we are called to reach out to those in need, much as Jesus did on that hillside, the same hillside where He is believed to have delivered the Beatitudes.

We want to help the poor? Then by all means let’s do our part by helping at the soup kitchen or the food pantry. Let us provide our donations to St. Vincent de Paul and support ‘out-of-poverty’ and Habitat for Humanity programs, but keep in mind that Jesus calls us to provide for those spiritual needs as well. We are called to give 'preferential option for the poor', but that entails more than simply providing jobs and placing food on the table. "One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God." As Saint Agnes demonstrates for us through her life we commemorate today, it begins with us and the choices we make with our lives. What are we doing to demonstrate and live-out the virtues of chastity, temperance, or charity in our lives? What are we doing to demonstrate the importance of marriage and family? Want to help the poor? It takes systemic change, beginning with the most fundamental societal system--marriage and the family. It goes beyond well-meaning programs and writing checks. We need to go to church. We need to pray. We need to encourage healthy Christian family and married life. We need to live and share our faith. Embrace and live the Beatitudes and the Gospel of Life in all that we do. More than a Habitat House, it requires that we 'dwell in the House of the Lord.' Make a great day! 

Today we recall the good life, gifts, and work of Saint Agnes of Montepulciano

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