As we exit Thanksgiving time and the world around us enters into Christmas festivities, I draw your attention to Advent, a season marked preeminently by hope, and expectation – virtues and values that even our Christian tradition has a difficult time holding onto.
Our Catholic Charities work is the incarnation of the virtue of hope. While each Catholic Charities agency has its own, the overall tagline of Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of New York is “providing help and creating hope.”
Our work has little meaning unless it brings hope to those in need. Is not a major part of our work convincing those who approach us for help to expect that they can create a better future for themselves? Is this not the essence of hope? This can be a difficult charge given the depth of suffering and pain many experiences.
It isn’t difficult to find cause to be hopeless these days when it seems that divisiveness, hatred, and violence abound. In our country, Jews are murdered in Pittsburgh. Abroad, groups of Christians are murdered in Egypt. Around the world, 65 million displaced persons and refugees seek haven. Sound immigration policy requires secure borders, but walls and tear gas aren’t the solution. Our Catholic Church reels from shameful acts by some clergy and mishandling by some bishops. In politics, vitriol emanates from the highest levels. In our own communities, so many continue to be on the streets and in shelters. Children struggle in schools that fail to educate, and the number of children abused and neglected in foster care, while many less than before, still remains in the thousands. So, it is not with rose-colored glasses that I am hopeful as we begin the season of Advent this week.
I commend you for being the hope of the world. You who, day-in-and-day-out, work with individuals and families confront incredible challenges. You, who volunteer in our programs, provide a helping hand. You, who so generously donate, make our work possible. You, who oversee our work on Boards, Committees, and Councils bring accountability to our efforts.
All of us together bring the type of help that changes lives, families, and even entire communities. We empower the poor, the vulnerable, the suffering, those struggling to move forward towards a future that more brightly reflects the image of God dwelling within each of us.
So I say thank you – for who you are and what you do. This is a major reason why I am able to be hopeful. As a jaded New Yorker, I do not expect a perfect world (Jesus can take care of that someday), but I do hope for and expect one in which more people’s sufferings will be alleviated and their dignity enhanced. You do that!
The world is filled with the weeds of problem and pain, but it is also full of the wheat of help that creates hope and the expectation for a better future.
We aren’t saving the world, but together, every year, our Catholic Charities agencies impact the lives of over a quarter of a million of our neighbors, non-Catholics and Catholics alike. As I keep that in mind, I fall asleep a bit more peaceful, but certainly not more passive.
May this also bring you peace, and inspiration to persevere in manifesting hope to our world. May you be brought an abundance of well-deserved blessings.