The text for Sunday is one of the many gospel renderings of Jesus feeding thousands of hungry people. The story is thick with meaning, but one inescapable thread is that Jesus not only cared about hungry people, he actually redistributed goods so that they would no longer be hungry. He took concrete steps to meet the needs of the poor, and commanded his disciples (that’s us) to do the same.
A commentary on the story drew my attention to a paragraph from a document produced by the Second Vatican Council, The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et spes). Their statement about Christian responsibility in the face of human need is breathtaking in its scope and its refusal to brook any compromise.For the rest, the right to have a share of earthly goods sufficient for oneself and one’s family belongs to everyone. The Fathers and Doctors of the Church held this view, teaching that [people] are obliged to come to the relief of the poor, and to do so not merely out of their superfluous goods. If a person is in extreme necessity, he has the right to take from the riches of others what he himself needs. Since there are so many people in this world afflicted with hunger, this sacred Council urges all, both individuals and governments, to remember the saying of the Fathers: ‘Feed the man dying of hunger, because if you have not fed him you have killed him.’ According to their ability, let all individuals and governments undertake a genuine sharing of their goods.*
Notice that this is not a call for individual charity or for faith-based institutions to handle the ills of the world. Our obligation is to share more than simply what we have left over, and to undertake the work of securing enough for all of God’s children on both individual and governmental levels.
As some in our country work tirelessly to eliminate the mechanisms that do just this–that feed, house, provide health care for, and sustain our youngest, eldest, and most vulnerable–Jesus’ example and the wisdom of the church form a damning counter-claim on our loyalties. The “debate” continues about the debt ceiling, and once this charade has passed, another will take its place. Jesus’ call, however, does not waver.
This is an excellent and succinct summary of the current debt ceiling controversy.
This is how to contact your representative.
This is how to contact your senator.*Quoted by Frederick Dale Bruner in Matthew: A Commentary, Volume 2 The Churchbook (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990) p. 69. Emphasis mine.