In today’s Gospel Jesus says to his disciples—and therefore to us—“You are the salt of the earth” and “You are the light of the world.” These metaphors are a call to action. We are to make a difference in our world for the better. We cannot just blend in—if so, we are like salt gone flat. The prophecy of Isaiah in our First Reading shows us the sort of light we are to be: “Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; Clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own.” We are blessed to have many parishioners who share their bread with the hungry thorough Agnes Table and the St. Francesca Resource Center; who shelter the homeless by volunteering at Sojourner House; who make or donate coats, mittens, quilts and clothes to the needy. Supporting Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services enables us all to extend our influence on a large scale.
On January 27 hundreds of thousands of people, including many from our own area and diocese, participated in the March for Life in Washington, DC. Their witness is light. One tired old criticism of the pro-life movement is that it is only “pro-birth” and does nothing to care for the child after birth. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Thank you to the Chippewa Herald for publishing last Sunday, January 29, the article by Cynthia Allen entitled, “Debunk the Myths about Pro-lifers.” She reports on the Philanthropy Roundtable and the Family Research Council’s report that “the amount of money overtly religious organizations spend on health care, education and anti-poverty programs dwarfs what they spend on ‘social’ causes (like fighting abortion) and exceeds or rivals what non-religious foundations and the federal government spend on such programs.” She then singles out Catholic organizations, since the Catholic Church is a leader in the pro-life movement: “To wit, the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S. spends the overwhelming majority of its income on health care and education.” She then speaks of “the robust services of Catholic Charities USA and Catholic Relief Services, which provide adoption assistance, financial planning, food aid and disaster relief among their many efforts to assist vulnerable people the world over, regardless of faith.”
The Catholic Bishops of the United States, while praising the Trump Administration’s moves to discontinue taxpayer funding of abortion at home and abroad, also call for a compassionate response to the refugee crisis and undocumented people already in the United States. They also call for the Affordable Care Act not to be repealed without immediate passage of a plan that preserves people’s access to adequate health care and also protects human life, conscience rights and the poor. Realizing that there are no easy answers, the Bishops caution against both political parties exploiting these issues for their own purposes. Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles said recently: “It is important to remember that behind every ‘statistic’ is a soul, a soul who has dignity as a child of God, a soul who has rights and needs that are both spiritual and material.” Yes, these are matters of doing what is just. I believe that by following the light of Catholic moral and social teaching, we can reflect the first verse of today’s Responsorial Psalm: “The LORD dawns through the darkness, a light for the upright.”
This weekend we are taking up a second collection for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). CCHD was founded to end the cycle of poverty in the United States by funding organizations that help people help themselves. With the tradition of improving education, housing situations and economic development, CCHD continues to make a positive impact in communities nationwide. Your contribution will defend human dignity and help those living on the margins of our society. Twenty-five percent (25%) of the collection stays in the Diocese of La Crosse for local grants.
This coming Saturday, February 11, is the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes and the 25th annual World Day of the Sick. Mass will be celebrated at St. Charles at 11:00 that morning, during which the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick will be administered. A lunch will follow. Anyone with a serious or chronic illness may be anointed. I hope that family members or neighbors will make an effort to bring to church any homebound parishioners who are able to come, but cannot usually get to Mass. Those who will receive the sacrament will receive a sticker to identify them as candidates for anointing. Healthcare workers or other care givers are welcome to come and they will receive a blessing at the end of the Mass.
Pray the Rosary this week for people who are seriously ill and all who care for them. Pray for all participating in our Alpha series. As always pray for peace and the safety of military personnel serving abroad.
May God bless his people with peace.