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With no blueprint for charity, be creative in living the Gospel

By:

At the beginning of May, on the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, Pope Francis offered this prayer at Mass: “Let us pray for all workers, so that no one might be without work and all might be paid a just wage. May they benefit from the dignity of work and the beauty of rest.”

It is a prayer that we would do well to commit to memory and recite frequently over the next few months. As the United States prepares to celebrate Labor Day, a national holiday that is dedicated, the Department of Labor says, to “the social and economic achievements of American workers,” we are acutely aware of how many people are without work because of the coronavirus pandemic. This number almost certainly is about to get much higher.

For months, the United States government has taken extraordinary measures to try to forestall a major economic meltdown. There were stimulus checks and larger-than-normal unemployment checks. There were eviction moratoriums, credit card payment deferments and payroll protection plans. All of these were welcome. But all of these extraordinary measures are now over, or will be very soon. The $600 additional lump sum in every unemployment check has gone away, as have the payroll protection funds, many eviction moratoriums, and, for those who have already used them for six months, payment deferments.

For businesses — including churches — the time has come to pay the piper, and the bill is high. Personnel decisions that have been deferred for months now need to be addressed, and the process, according to daily news reports, is beginning. As is often the case, the ones who are most likely to be affected are those who most can’t afford it. If nothing replaces the support that Americans were receiving for the past six months, a Harvard economist told The Atlantic, American families will face “a looming hunger crisis and a looming eviction crisis.” We are on the brink of widespread economic devastation, and all of us will be affected in one way or another.

We do not draw attention to these facts to scare anyone, but to encourage creative preparedness and action while we are still — for the time being — at the top of the downward spiral. At a time when it may seem prudent or desirable to close in on one’s self, to hoard one’s pennies and keep one’s own family safe, the Gospel call challenges us to do precisely the opposite. It is the duty of every Christian to love and serve one’s neighbor, and over the next several months, we are going to need one another.

As we all navigate these challenging times, families, parishes and neighborhoods need to be thinking creatively of the best ways to support those in need. Depending on individual circumstances, support can come in a variety of forms.

We can assist financially by donating money or goods to charitable organizations. Every parish can become a location for a food bank or a distribution center for clothing, toiletries or other needs. We can make an effort to buy locally sourced goods and services that could help keep community businesses afloat, rather than relying on national chains.

We can assist emotionally and psychologically through a ministry of presence. Even while respecting social distancing guidelines, we can check in on our neighbors, offering a listening ear and an empathetic heart. By being attentive to our neighbor, we also may be able to notice early signs of depression, suicidal tendencies or addiction — all of which have risen during this crisis.

We can assist spiritually by offering our prayers and sacrifices for the sufferings of others. We can seek the Lord’s protection of the most vulnerable from disease, and we can ask for the intercession of the Blessed Mother and all the saints for those most in need.

If you are the one struggling, there is no shame in reaching out for assistance. We are the Body of Christ, here to look on one another with the eyes of Jesus.

At a time like this, there is no blueprint that we can offer as a way forward except for the blueprint of charity. Love your neighbors. Be aware of their needs. Think ahead and get organized. Be creative. Look outward, not inward. As we celebrate Labor Day, let us pray for all those who long to work but cannot. And let us pledge to be at their service.

This article comes to you from OSV Newsweekly (Our Sunday Visitor) courtesy of your parish or diocese.

 

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