Charity and Justice During Lent 2023
“If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation, and malicious speech; if you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; then light shall arise for you in the darkness and the gloom shall become for you like midday.” Is 58:10.
Removing oppression and sharing bread with the hungry continues to raise the themes of charity and justice introduced in last week’s readings that called us to hunger and thirst for righteousness. The notion of sharing bread with the hungry points to the function of charity. We witness those around us who do not have enough – food, clothing, or shelter. Those with the resources can choose to share from their surplus – by making a donation or sharing the resources needed (e.g. cans of soup or dry goods to the food pantry).
In just about three weeks, we begin the season of Lent. Almsgiving (charity) is one of the three pillars of lenten practice – with prayer and fasting being the other two. Clearing out one’s pantry and donating surplus food to the food pantry; or clearing out one’s closet and donating unused clothing to the St. Vincent de Paul Society are wonderful ways to observe Lent through almsgiving. Likewise, making a financial donation to a favorite charity is a great example of almsgiving during the Lenten season. The practice of charitable giving – “bestowing bread on the hungry” – is a source of light in the world as it provides an example of loving service and as a witness to the worth and dignity of all human beings. Likewise, those who volunteer their time or have taken a job administering these charities help to keep the light shining in a way that calls others to a loving response.
Charity does not address the theme of justice. “Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. Justice toward God is called the ‘virtue of religion.’ Justice toward men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good” (The Catechism of the Catholic Church #1807). The accompanying graphic on this page (from @restoringracialjustice) helps illustrate the differences between equality, equity, and justice.
A justice approach will begin to explore ways to distribute support so that all get what they need. It also begins to examine the underlying structures that block access to resources. For all of us at times, the questions and issues this orientation raises can feel overwhelming. They certainly feel beyond what one can do as part of a Lenten practice. While we might not be able to solve issues of inequality in our society as a part of our Lenten practice – we can begin to explore what our faith has to say about these inequalities and how Catholic Social teaching might allow us to do our part in beginning to address these issues.
With this goal in mind, we’ll be presenting a special game time on Saturday March 4 – 10 AM – Noon.
– During this time, we’ll have a brief introduction to Catholic Social Teaching.
– We’ll play a game called Inequality – opoly – a game that allows us to experience inequality through the taking on of an assumed identity that will determine the likelihood that you will participate in or avoid certain events in the game based on the role of the dice.
– We’ll conclude the morning by seeking to apply the social justice teaching to our experience of inequality.
If your lenten practices include things like learning more about the Catholic faith; responding more to those in need; or connecting with others – this morning may help to put these practices into action. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
Fr. Brian Conley, SJ