Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti, Eucharist and Justice: How the Cry of the Poor Affects our Worship

This weekend, around the nation, parishes are being encouraged to take up collections for the disaster victims in Haiti, and no doubt, people will be generous, even in these uncertain economic times. It is also an opportunity to strengthen people's understanding of the connection between Eucharist and the extreme suffering and poverty of people in poor areas of the world. In  Sacramentum Caritatis Pope Benedict calls Eucharist the Sacrament of Charity and "Food of Truth and Human Need." He underlines the connection between Eucharist and social justice for the poor of the world:

"We cannot remain passive before certain processes of globalization which not infrequently increase the gap between the rich and the poor worldwide. We must denounce those who squander the earth's riches, provoking inequalities that cry out to heaven (cf. Jas 5:4). For example, it is impossible to remain silent before the "distressing images of huge camps throughout the world of displaced persons and refugees, who are living in makeshift conditions in order to escape a worse fate, yet are still in dire need. Are these human beings not our brothers and sisters? Do their children not come into the world with the same legitimate expectations of happiness as other children? The Lord Jesus, the bread of eternal life, spurs us to be mindful of the situations of extreme poverty in which a great part of humanity still lives: these are situations for which human beings bear a clear and disquieting responsibility... The food of truth demands that we denounce inhumane situations in which people starve to death because of injustice and exploitation, and it gives us renewed strength and courage to work tirelessly in the service of the civilization of love. From the beginning, Christians were concerned to share their goods (cf. Acts 4:32) and to help the poor (cf. Rom 15:26). "(90)

One could hope that homilists around the country, and indeed the world, will use the opportunity created by people's natural sympathy and horror resulting from this disaster to show the reality of Benedict's wisdom and connect it to the social teaching of the Church.

"The mystery of the Eucharist inspires and impels us to work courageously within our world to bring about that renewal of relationships which has its inexhaustible source in God's gift. The prayer which we repeat at every Mass: "Give us this day our daily bread," obliges us to do everything possible, in cooperation with international, state and private institutions, to end or at least reduce the scandal of hunger and malnutrition afflicting so many millions of people in our world, especially in developing countries." (91)

As we receive Eucharist, may we do so in solidarity with those who suffer in Haiti, especially the 80% of Haitians who are Catholic and will be longing for Eucharist themselves. Since so many priests were  killed and churches destroyed, celebrations of the Mass will, no doubt be few - even if they could find bread and wine. What they need is our help, our prayers, and our solidarity - ongoing - which, as the suffering poor,  they should have had all along.

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