As I move within the Diocese of St. Cloud, I see the changing faces of poverty and it disturbs me, as it disturbs many people.
The “outcast and the orphan” and “the widow and the stranger” that we hear Jesus talk about in the Scriptures are in our diocese — and that is truth, not fake news.
Another truth is that it is so difficult for anyone to know what to do with this reality. What do we do with people who are homeless, with strangers, and what in the heck do we do with hungry kids? It seems another fact is true: As we wonder what to do, things are getting worse for many who are already struggling.
Rather than being disturbed and uncomfortable about this reality, it is much easier to get rid of these troubling worries by throwing up our hands and deciding that there is nothing we can do. Or, even worse, we begin to blame people for being poor! We blame people for not having a job that pays them enough to feed their families, or we blame people for having mental illnesses, or for being elderly, or having an illness that puts them out of work or even into bankruptcy.
We feel justified then to simply forget about it and go on with life. In the forgetting, we can feel undisturbed and work on our own happiness. I would say, that is feeding ourselves fake news — the kind that pushes out the Good News of the Gospel message of Jesus.
Sharing the Good News
Can you relate? But — and this is a capital BUT — what if, in this diocese, we didn’t just forget and go about our own lives and our own happiness? What if we believed the Good News of Jesus and saw the goodness in God’s people, and loved, respected and cared enough to act?
What if we all took time out of our busy schedules to face the reality of people who are struggling in poverty and did something? Not something monumental, though God has been known to work a miracle here and there, but something — just something!
People are living this Good News and facing the reality of poverty all over the diocese as they take time to meet in their social concerns committees. One committee decided to address mental health issues in their area and came up with a plan that involved their local school and mental health professionals. They proclaimed Good News!
One team put together a pocket-size list of the services that were available in their small communities, so that people who were struggling could find help and hope. They put them in grocery stores, gas stations and gave them to local pastors. They proclaimed the Good News!
Another group had a community meeting and came up with ways to fight food insecurity in their area. Still another group worked to help with transportation needs. They and many others in our diocese are taking the time to act and, in that way, they are proclaiming the Good News!
Loving God, neighbor
Each of us may have a different definition of fake news or see it in various ways, but what we can all agree on is that Jesus brings Good News. That Good News comes with many promises of God’s love and care, but it also comes with the Great Commandment to love God and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. That Good News means that we can’t just forget about our neighbors who are hurting.
Our tradition gives us the corporal works of mercy and Catholic social teaching. That is not fake news! That’s reality and, when lived, it is Good News for all of us!
Kathy Langer is director of social concerns for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Cloud.