A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Posts Tagged ‘social justice

So many things are designed for our convenience:

  • self-cleaning ovens, which I can appreciate, since I didn’t enjoy crawling halfway into an oven to clean it
  • self-defrosting freezers, which I also like, since defrosting the freezer section of a fridge with the help of a hair dryer was less than fun
  • no-iron shirts, which I like because I find ironing a shirt well is a challenge
  • pre-cooked bacon, which I think takes convenience a bit too far

Our appreciation for convenience spills over into our faith lives as well. Think rosary apps and electronic versions of the Bible that let us turn commuting time into time spent with God. Or diocesan websites that help us find a time to receive the sacrament of reconciliation or a Sunday Mass to attend when we’re away from home. Or even pre-authorized giving, which means we don’t need to write a cheque or find cash for our Sunday offering envelope and we can better plan our giving.

Sometimes, though, our love of convenience can be less than a blessing to others.

Often it’s the same people who serve in multiple roles in a parish or a community organization, or who consistently volunteer at their children’s school in the classroom or on field trips, or who frequently coach or carpool for their children’s hockey or soccer or ringette team. Maybe they see a need and feel called to fill it; maybe others are reluctant to give up their time to help.

People rush to avoid holding open doors for others, refuse to let other drivers merge into traffic, or leave their shopping carts in the parking lot instead of in the cart return. Maybe they don’t want to take the time to be considerate.

People complain about the arrival of refugees or economic migrants when there are already people in need, but they lament the problem rather than contribute to the solution. Maybe it would take some time to sort through closets for items to give to clothing drives, donate a few items to the food bank bin at the grocery store, or urge politicians via e-mail or snail mail to address social justice concerns.

We need to be careful how we divide up our time so we don’t neglect our work and family responsibilities or our need to relax and recharge our batteries. We want to use our gifts well and not keep others from using theirs. But we need to recognize when we’re refusing to serve in some way—even a very small way—simply because it’s inconvenient.

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.

Do not say to your neighbour, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you.

~Proverbs 3:27-28*

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

As I’ve mentioned in my last couple of posts, I’ve heard a lot of negative comments about the upcoming arrival of Syrian refugees in Canada. But there are also positive stories to share:

  • people taking a stand on social media to say they won’t tolerate negative rants about the refugee situation instead of calm discussion and unfriending others where necessary to turn off the tap of negativity
  • organizations mobilizing to provide health care, housing and language instruction to newcomers
  • average Canadians looking for ways they can help—everything from knitting scarves and hats to providing translation and interpretation services

Those who argue we shouldn’t help refugees when our nation already has people in need should read  1 John 3:17-18*:

But if any one has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth.

It’s not enough to say that we already have citizens in need of our help. We need to take a good hard look at ourselves and ask what we’re doing to help—not the municipal, provincial or federal governments, but we as individuals:

  • If we’re concerned that there are homeless Canadians now, are we encouraging our politicians to support subsidized housing or are we opposing these projects in our community?
  • If we’re concerned that there are hungry Canadians now, are we contributing even a few dollars’ worth of groceries to the food bank bin at our local grocery or department store, preparing Christmas food hampers for our church or community food bank, or donating to or serving at a local mission’s holiday (or everyday) dinner?
  • If we’re concerned that there are Canadians in need of winter clothes now, are we donating new or gently used winter gear to clothing drives or making items with our knitting, crocheting, sewing or quilting skills?
  • If we’re concerned that there are Canadians in need of jobs now, are we using our connections to help others find work? Are we mentoring youth or adults in transition from other careers? Are we offering volunteer opportunities to help others gain skills and network?

Instead of just using our words to point out the needs that exist before the refugees arrive, I pray that we would use our time, talents and connections to help meet these needs.

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)


(A) blow of the tongue crushes the bones.

Many have fallen by the edge of the sword,

but not so many as have fallen because of the tongue.

~ Sirach 28:17-18*

Since the attacks on Paris, social media have been buzzing with opinions on how to handle ISIS and whether Canada and other countries should take in Syrian refugees in case terrorists should lurk among them.

Many are already rolling up the welcome mat. Following today’s announcement about the federal government’s refugee resettlement plan, some posted comments about “foreign migrants” carrying “fake passports” and describing refugees as “welfare tourists.”

Those may be some of the less acidic posts.

No matter how we feel about the number of refugees and the timeline—whether we feel there are too many or too few people coming too soon or not soon enough—verbally bashing refugees will get us nowhere. Unless, of course, we aim to be seen as lacking in compassion.

The kind of comments I’ve read would make me want to unfriend or unfollow the writers or, at the very least, delete their comments, which do little to accurately describe the refugees soon to arrive but reveal a great deal about the writers.

Surely we can have a discussion or even a debate on the issue that doesn’t involve tarring refugees with a terrorist brush simply because of the region they’re coming from or entail waging personal attacks on other commenters who disagree with the writers’ perspective.

We shouldn’t act as though using a screen name gives us licence to make comments we wouldn’t say in person or pretend that we can avoid taking responsibility for our words just because we hide behind a (thin) shield of anonymity.

Before posting such biting comments online, maybe we could take a cue from Sirach 28:24-25:

See that you fence in your property with thorns,

lock up your silver and gold,

make balances and scales for your words,

and make a door and a bolt for your mouth.

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

Now that the Church has selected a new pope, media attention has turned to the public’s opinion on the choice of Pope Francis and on what his priorities should be.

I’ve read a number of articles stating that many people, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, would like to see the Church allow female priests, end celibacy for priests, expand the role of the laity, and so on. In short, they’d like to “modernize” the Church.

I think these articles miss an important point: as Christians, we’re not called to adapt to the ways of the world but to transform ourselves according to God’s will, as the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:2*:

Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

To learn God’s will for our lives, we need to spend time talking and, even more importantly, listening to God in times of prayer, following the example Jesus gave us during his earthly ministry. We also need to spend time reading God’s word to learn what he expects of us. In Micah 6:8, we are told this:

He has showed you, O man, what is good;

and what does the LORD require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

and to walk humbly with your God?

In the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 5-7), Jesus tells us about God’s will on such topics as charitable giving, prayer, and forgiveness. And in Mark 12:29-31, he tells us what the most important commandments are:

Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Scripture tells us that we need to transform our lives by loving God, by acting in more loving ways toward our family members and our neighbours (in the broadest sense of the word), by giving to those in need at home and abroad, by modelling true forgiveness, and by working for social justice. These are areas where our society is often sadly lacking.

And if we do these things, the Church can teach “modern” society so much through the way we its members live.

*Quotes from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition

Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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