Saturday, October 31, 2009

A God of Relationships

 The slogan that used to accompany Bread for the World's old logo portraying the loaves and fishes was "Seek Justice.  End Hunger".  When a new, more modern, logo was created the slogan was changed to "Have Faith. End Hunger."   Since I liked both slogans, I didn't see any reason why we couldn't combine them in our Bread for the World- New Mexico blog.  Hence, our slogan is "Have Faith. Seek Justice.  End Hunger."

Which brings me to the topic of today's blog post.  How exactly does our Christian vocation fit into our anti-hunger and anti-poverty work?  "It's a no-brainer," you say.  If we seek justice (not retribution, but a just way of sharing God's gifts and God's creation), then everything will fall into place.

A Bread for the World member from a community in northwestern New Mexico recently shared with me a disturbing letter to the editor that he saw in the local newspaper.  The writer took issue with the theme of prayer of the faithful in the Catholic Mass.  Often, the prayers ask us to hold in our hearts those who are suffering, and to move us to take actions that will relieve that suffering.  But the letter-writer said,
Praying for voluntary increases in donations to the poor is Christian. Praying for governments to redistribute property in a way it deems to be "fair" is Marxist communism....The U.S., a capitalist nation, is the largest redistributor of wealth in the world and it does so voluntarily. In contrast, most starvation in the world today is politically originated by governments having absolute power over their people; the kind of power required to redistribute private property.
Fortunately, a local Catholic pastor responded with his own letter to the editor, which said:
I didn't get upset by these comments. I simply chuckled and said to myself, "Well, I've been called all sorts of things in my 20 years of priesthood. Now I can finally say I was accused of being a Marxist. Wow!"...Please know...that we as a Church pray that our nation and all nations — and all individuals, for that matter — be mindful of the poor and that we take care of the least among us.

That is nothing radical. That is the Christian vocation.
That Christian vocation is spelled out in one form or another in Jesus' account of the two Greatest Commandments all four Gospels. You can find it in :Matthew 22:36-40   Mark 12:28-31   Luke 10:25-28   John 13:34

We are fortunate to have access to a program of study called JustFaith Ministries, which  looks more closely at this Christian vocation of caring for one another.  The program, in which Bread for the World is a partner, has been successful in many Catholic parishes around the country, and the ecumenical version is beginning to take root in some communities.

Last summer, Dan Driscoll, one of the JustFaith trainers, gave a workshop here in Albuquerque.  As Dan pointed out during the workshop, "it is next to impossible to find a passage in scripture that does not deal with social justice,"

One of the themes that I remember most from Dan's presentation was the concept of social justice begins with the recognition that we need each other  

The Zulu tradition, he said, expresses this in a slogan that says
"umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu" - which means that a person is only a person through their relationship to others..

Archbishop Desmond Tutu summed it up in when he spoke of the related concept of Ubuntu:
One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu - the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can't exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can't be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality - Ubuntu - you are known for your generosity.

We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.

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