Social Justice: The just care for the cause of the poor

By DeKarlos Blackmon
Columnist

Sara Ramirez, the executive director of Catholic Charities of Central Texas, recently reminded a gathering of social ministers that we must recognize and distinguish between situational poverty and chronic poverty. “If we don’t address the situational poverty, it will become chronic poverty,” she said. 
When considering the millions of people measured to be living below the poverty line in the U.S., we may sometimes fail to consider the reality that many of them cannot manage to feed their families adequately, even working far more than 40 hours a week. These situations, if left untreated, can become chronic and dire for families leading to generational poverty. Our diocese is grateful for the work of Catholic Charities, as the agency stands at the forefront of helping people of all faiths, cultures and socioeconomic statuses to meet the church’s obligation to the poor.
When we think more deeply about the issue of poverty, we must consider seriously how expressing compassion and effecting justice are crucially important to eradicating poverty in our land. We cannot claim to know and follow Christ and fail to express compassion for the poor. We are reminded that because Christ laid down his life for us, we too must sacrifice ourselves for each other, expressing compassion to all those in need, not only using words, but in deed and in truth (1 Jn 3:16-18). 
The Christian faithful have an obligation to care for those in poverty who are without a voice because “the just care for the cause of the poor” (Prov 29:7). When we say we are pro-life, we must keep ever before us that the poverty is indeed a pro-life issue. This is why our support of Catholic Charities and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) collection (to be taken up the weekend of Nov. 19-20) is so very important in support of the dignity of human life, the foundational principle of Catholic social teaching.
A principal objective of CCHD is to fund organizations whose very efforts are to effect positive change in the policies and social structures that weaken dignity, particularly for the underprivileged and defenseless. Later this month, in parishes across the diocese, we will have the opportunity to give generously to help provide much needed funding to groups whose work reflects Catholic social teaching in terms of the intrinsic dignity of human life. Through our support of the annual CCHD collection, the faithful of Central Texas play a vital role in helping the socioeconomically disadvantaged improve their lives, overcome injustice and escape poverty. 
The work of CCHD and Catholic Charities serves the needs of all God’s people because we understand there is not one of us who possesses a corner on the market of God’s benevolent grace. God lavishes his grace widely, and so too are we called to give back to him by serving the needs of the human family. Notwithstanding the concrete realities of everyday life, we are called to be transformed by the Gospel thus showing a noble concern for the poor and for social justice (Evangelii Gaudium, 201). 
As we prepare for our Thanksgiving celebrations with our families and friends, let us continue to awaken our consciences to a keen awareness of social responsibility, justice and solidarity with the poor and the oppressed. Let us remember to continue to go out into the world endeavoring to make a positive difference in the lives of others, a difference that is pleasing to God who does great things for us, a difference that spreads the joy we have received from the Lord. 
May we realize such a powerful witness of the preferential option for the poor that people will exclaim, “The Lord has done great things for us, we are filled with joy” (Ps 126:3).