On the margins with the voiceless and vulnerable

    March 4, 2024

    Naaman has a problem. It’s not leprosy, although certainly that’s a challenge. Rather, it’s the consequences from the disease. Lepers were cast off, forced to live outside the villages and towns. When anyone approached, they were made to yell “UNCLEAN, UNCLEAN.” The disease was essentially a death sentence, even before you died. We are made to live in community; when we can’t connect, it’s easy to lose hope.

    Naaman believed that prophet Elisha had the power to transform his life. Even though it was against social norms, he took the BOLD step to approach him and kneel before him. The Lord hears the cry of the poor: Elisha wasn’t scared — he didn’t turn away — and Naaman was healed.

    We don’t see much leprosy in the developed world today, but the number of people cut off from society is growing at an alarming rate. The Surgeon General recently noted that the greatest U.S. health crisis today is isolation and loneliness. Faced with the challenges of poverty, addiction, mental illness, HIV, human trafficking and homelessness, many of the people we serve become “invisible” and are cut off from mainstream society.

    Lacking community, it’s easy to lose hope, as evidenced by an alarming number of people dealing with anxiety, angst and despair. It’s heartbreaking that 30% of Generation Z have contemplated suicide.

    Life is messy. Many want to turn their backs and stay in their comfortable surroundings, hoping not to engage. That ignores the fact that even though many are facing challenges, our faith calls us to reach out to those in need. Catholic Charities does just that, working on the margins with the voiceless and vulnerable. Our tagline sums it up nicely — providing help, restoring hope.

    For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,
    plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
    plans to give you hope and a future.
    Jeremiah 29:11

    At times the frustration of dealing with so many challenges can threaten our hope as well. Remember: we’re not in this alone. Like Naaman, we have to believe. When we are weak, HE is strong. In Christ, we have the power to change the world. In the moments when believing is hard, let Christ restore our hope so we can restore hope for those we serve.

    As St. Teresa of Avila notes, “Christ has no body now but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the EYES through which he looks lovingly on this world. Yours are the FEET with which he walks to do good. Yours are the HANDS through which he blesses the world.”

    Be a blessing.

    Deacon Scott Haner serves at St. Patrick Parish in Louisville, KY. He is a former Board Member for Catholic Charities of Louisville and does mission work in Appalachia, Central America and East Africa.

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