To a starving body, God comes in the form of bread. To preach redemption without meeting those basic needs is tragic.”

This is an idea I overheard tonight while our community discussed various aspects of Catholic social teaching. I’m amazed at how deeply they wrestle with concepts like basic human dignity, what constitutes a ‘right’ as a creation of God, what it means to be created in God’s image from a standpoint of peace and social justice, and the difference between faithful charity and faithful justice. On one hand, charity/giving is a necessary work of Christians and God desires it. So it is hugely important to God and He honors our charity. But faithful justice is an area that He can and should be glorified in, also. By that I mean changing the system itself, so that there isn’t such a huge need for charity in the first place. Let’s restore human dignity and not force families or persons to choose between food and medication, or mediation and shelter… or force the homeless to choose between food and their own dignity. Have you ever been in an inner-city and experienced panhandling? Or seen a needy person begging passerby for spare change? I imagine that I would feel unloved, ashamed, and feeling like I was hanging onto the last few shreds of my dignity, all because my basic needs haven’t been met. When I lived in Philly for a summer, it was a daily experience and an irreplaceable, humbling one. In one of the Pope’s last few encyclicals, he urges Christians and non-Christians alike to shape all their decisions and actions around the common good, which means being charitable but also enforcing social justice in our communities. Sister Clara put it poignantly tonight. She says,

Faithful charity means crumbs from the table; faithful justice means having a place at the table.”

At the Children’s Home, a child there is provided for – those physical, relational and psychological needs are met – but only until the county or insurance provider decides to cut the chord. Which happens often. A child may not complete treatment before they are forced back into their old living situation, and then the Children’s Home will get repeat placements when the same child has acted out or has been court-ordered into residential treatment, yet again. All are hard things to think about. But not unredeemable. The sinful nature that drives our corrupt social systems – the allowing of drug/human trafficking, lack of respect to minorities, the prevalence of greed, and more – is a shameful truth today, but God has a provision for that. He died for it. To release us from the slavery of our sins. So it’s not impossible to change things, to instill faithful peace and social justice in our communities, but not easy in the least, because it first requires us to look at ourselves in the mirror and be honest with our sinfulness and put our pride away. Nope, definitely not easy. But definitely possible. What do you think?