Who is responsible for the care of the poor? That isn’t the easiest question to answer. But today’s readings (from the prophet Amos and the story of Lazarus and the Rich man in the Gospel) make it abundantly clear that those who believe in God – and especially followers of Jesus Christ – must respond to these social needs. There is both a personal and a corporate responsibility which our Faith places upon us. In a country where many social programs (supported by our taxes) are provided by government, there is a tendency to shift all responsibility to the corporate. “Why doesn’t the government do something about this?” is a typical response. The Church fully recognizes that many types of social needs can and should be handled by individuals, while others must be addressed by a larger social organization. This is called the “principle of subsidiarity”. A simple example of that is the way we take care of roads. Individuals cannot pave and maintain roads. It is necessary for larger social structures to do this. So, it is proper and sensible that city governments take care of city streets, the county takes care of county roads, and the state cares for its highways. It is evident that we don’t want the federal government to be responsible for city streets. (They would never get plowed in winter!) And individuals should take care of their own driveways. Likewise, our Christian charity begins at home. It is right and good that one cares first for his family, then those in need with whom he comes in contact – the “Lazarus” next door or down the street. But we shouldn’t leave the corporate action of caring for the needy only to government. The whole Church (through the parish, diocese, or even larger combined efforts of the faithful of a whole country) needs to act in those cases where individual action is insufficient. That is part of the wisdom of our Diocesan Annual Appeal: through our combined efforts we can supply the means to assist many people in need who would otherwise be left unaided. “Practice hospitality ungrudgingly to one another. As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s varied graces: whoever renders service, as one who renders it by the strength which God supplies; in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion for ever and ever.” (1 Peter 4:9-11)
I leave tomorrow (Monday) with our group for an 11- day pilgrimage to Italy. The highlight will be the diaconate ordination at St. Peter’s Basilica of two of our men from the diocese. My thanks to the priests who will be assisting during my absence. Please note several changes of the confession and daily Mass schedule while I’m gone. Arrivederci!
May God bless you!