This week, we celebrated the feast of the Epiphany. This special religious observance marks the 12th day of Christmas and is a reminder to us about following the light.
As we are told in Matthew’s Gospel from last Sunday, “… magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.’”
The magi followed the light — the star — to discover the light: Jesus, the light of the world.
Like the magi, we are called to do the same, although each in our own way. Jesus came into the world to offer us redemption from our sins. He illuminated our path to eternal life by reminding us, through example and words, that love conquers sin and death.
During his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus described in clear, concise terms how to be the light he wants us to be — for him and for our brothers and sisters. Be merciful, be meek and humble, be clean of heart, be peacemakers. When we put the sufferings and needs of others before ourselves, we are the light that leads others to Christ.
As Jesus said at the end of his sermon, “You are the light of the world. … your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”
How can we be this light in 2021? One way is to learn about the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD).
CCHD was established by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in 1970 to carry out Christ’s teachings, especially by “empowering low-income people, families and communities.” Through its Poverty USA initiative (povertyusa.org), CCHD offers an educational resource to help people of faith and communities to address the root causes of poverty in America.
January is Poverty Awareness Month. It is an opportune time to learn simple ways to support the 38.1 million Americans living in poverty.
According to CCHD, 16.2% of all U.S. children (11.9 million) live in poverty, and 2.5 million children experience homelessness in a year.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only served to heighten the stress on families in poverty. Despite the stimulus relief package passed by Congress in late December, which provided a $600 check to each U.S. citizen, families at or below the poverty line still struggle to feed children, to pay rent and access health care.
CCHD encourages people of faith to take action by following its four-step plan: teach, take action, pray, support.
Teach: CCHD’s website includes a resource page for educators to help teach children and adults about poverty awareness.
Take action: This page offers a list of ways to address poverty, such as contacting lawmakers, starting a food drive, sharing your talents, etc.
Pray: Quotes from Scripture and writings of popes and bishops on themes of Catholic social teaching help to focus attention on people experiencing poverty. “Prayer and meditation can open our eyes to our responsibilities and our hearts to solutions,” CCHD reminds us.
Support: CCHD helps local organizations around the country that serve the poor. Know that your financial support to CCHD makes a difference in the lives of struggling families.
Like the magi, we are asked to follow the light and to be the light. What better way to brighten the world than by shining the light of Christ on those who struggle in poverty, especially those doing so in the darkness.