Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In my Lenten Letters we have been thinking about some defects in the American Catholic Church, and looking for their remedies. We’ve looked at different types of Catholicism: cultural vs. universal; cafeteria vs. catechized and last week comfortable vs. committed. This week let’s think about Complacent Catholicism.
One of the things I’ve observed about my home country, returning to live here after twenty-five years abroad, is that many Americans are very complacent about the needy in the world. We are the richest people the world has ever seen, and yet we go to bed every night in a world full of starving children.
I realize that there are many Americans who work tirelessly on behalf of the poor, and I also realize that the Catholic Church in America feeds, houses, nurses and educates more people than any other single institution.
Nevertheless, there is a widespread complacency in our hearts towards the poor and needy. While some are very involved in works of compassion, many are not. While some are very generous in their gifts of time, talent and treasure, many are not. While some are very compassionate towards those in need, many are completely careless.
The Catholic Church teaches that we reach out in compassion to those in need because they are our brothers and sisters. We belong to one human family.
The problems and causes of poverty are complex and the needs of the poor are not easy to meet. Offering compassionate help is never straightforward or simple. True Catholic Compassion is never simply giving handouts to people, but giving a hand up to people. It means getting involved with their lives and caring for them and with them as members of a community.
This Lent why not examine your own life again. Is there some way you can be more compassionate to those in need? Is there some extra gift you can make, some extra time you can give, some extra prayers you can offer?
Now is the time for us to become more involved and to ask the Holy Spirit to replace our complacency with hearts of compassion.