Like many of you, I receive many mailings from worthwhile charities serving a variety of clientele both in the United States and around the world. The advertisements on television are the ones that are most heart wrenching: the starving boy or girl, the child that suffers from malnutrition, poor eyesight, cleft palate, etc. These agencies do a fine job of breaking down your possible donation into so many cents per day, which certainly makes you think that you could afford a monthly contribution. Too many children still die from hunger and preventable diseases! Hard to believe, isn’t it?
I realize how much I take for granted in this regard. Every year I have an annual physical exam from an excellent physician located just a block away from where I live. Annually I have my eyes examined and periodically I get a new pair of glasses due to needing a new prescription. All I have to do is walk a little over a block to have any prescriptions filled or to get over the counter medications for lesser ailments. When I am hungry, I can go to a supermarket for countless fruits and vegetables or to a deli for prepared dishes to take home. If all else fails, a Subway, McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, etc. is within walking distance. And if I come up with an excruciating pain at any time during the day or night, I can call 911 for an ambulance to come and take me off to the nearest hospital. Do we ever give much thought to how unreal all this must sound to vast populations of people all over the world who have little if any of the above?
There are many wonderful organizations that are helping the poor and the homeless. Our own Franciscan Outreach in Chicago assists many people for food, shelter, counseling, a place to have some clothes washed and a mailbox to receive necessary information. Food for the Poor serves the needy in a number of countries, especially in Central and South America (Fr. Bob Karris, O.F.M., will be here in September to tell us more and to invite our participation). UNICEF has a magnificent record of addressing the world’s neediest. And there is NETWORK, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, which has worked to heighten awareness and to change local and national policies in accord with Christian teaching.
One of my favorites is Bread for the World, a faith-based group that has a goal of ending hunger by 2030 with the assistance of many congregations and the Congress of the United States. In the 1970s, Rev. Art Simon, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in New York City’s Lower East Side, often found himself responding to emergency situations caused by hunger and poverty in his neighborhood. But Simon recalled his father saying, “It’s better to build a fence at the top of a cliff than to have an ambulance at the bottom.” Simon and a dozen other church leaders in the area—Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and Presbyterians—were tired of being “ambulance drivers.” They began to explore how they might address the local and global root causes of hunger. In 1974, they founded Bread for the World with the mission of ending hunger in God’s world by speaking out to their elected officials in Washington.
Bread attracted thousands of members who were donating money because they supported the premise that by changing policies, programs, and conditions that allow hunger and poverty to persist, we could provide help and opportunity far beyond the communities in which we live. But Bread needed to find a way to organize these members and prepare them to reach out to their members of Congress. Bread’s grassroots network was born with the launch of Project 500—an effort to recruit and train 500 advocates. Many of these early advocates remain active supporters today. And this network, which has grown exponentially since then, remains the true hands and heart of the organization.
Bread launched its first large-scale Offering of Letters in 1975—on the right to food. Despite having fewer than 10,000 members at the time, Bread was able to generate more than 100,000 letters to Congress on this issue because the active membership invited their fellow church members to participate. The landmark Right to Food Resolution, passed overwhelmingly by Congress, states, “The United States reaffirms the right of every person in this country and throughout the world to food and a nutritionally adequate diet….”
Since its beginning, Bread has consistently campaigned to protect and expand our food safety net—national nutrition programs. As a result, strong programs help one in five Americans put food on the table each year. Two campaigns in 1977 and 1978 resulted in the establishment of grain reserves to stabilize food prices and respond to international food emergencies. In 1979, Bread began a campaign to create a national nutrition monitoring system, which now enables us to accurately measure the extent of food insecurity in the United States.
Bread has always been an ardent supporter of the Supplemental Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) since it was established in 1974. In 1978, Bread successfully advocated for the expansion of WIC. Today, it benefits 9 million people who would otherwise lack adequate nutrition.
Bread helped craft and pass legislation to establish an international Child Survival Fund in 1984. Since then, it has pushed to increase its funding. Every year, the fund helps immunize more than 100 million children in the developing world, and since its inception, the number of children dying daily from malnutrition and preventable diseases has fallen by 50 percent.
In 1999, Bread led the legislative coalition of the Jubilee Campaign. As part of this worldwide movement, it convinced Congress to forgive the debts of some of the world’s poorest countries. Debt relief helped many countries expand basic education and health services. Today, this relief has reduced the debts of 36 of the world’s poorest countries by 90 percent.
In 2003 and 2004, Bread successfully urged Congress to establish and appropriate funds for the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a new way of administering U.S. foreign aid. The MCC, which is focused on good governance, accountability, and poverty reduction, is crucial in helping achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Since then, MCC has disbursed over $8.5 billion in aid.
Bread and many religious bodies joined forces with environmental and tax groups to campaign for reform of the farm bill in 2007. The farm bill is the major source of funding for national nutrition programs. The coalition won the largest funding increase ever for such programs. But more importantly, it has shaken up traditional farm bill politics and made the House and Senate farm bills better than they would have otherwise been.
Throughout the years, Bread has been successful in ensuring that billions of dollars are set aside in the federal budget for poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA). Despite congressional attempts to reduce it in the last three years, Bread has succeeded in getting PFDA increased.
In 2009, Bread began advocating for comprehensive immigration reform of the U.S. immigration system. Bread’s unique contribution to this effort has always been on the link between hunger and immigration. And in 2012, Bread won a five-year extension of the earned income tax credit. EITC alone benefits more than 13 million low-income working families.
Pope Francis has reminded us so often of our responsibility to care not only for our own families but for needy people throughout the world. Certainly there are many agencies that can help us to do this; Bread for the World is one that has done a marvelous job in this regard over the past forty years.
SIXTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
The Book of Wisdom, dated to the century before Christ, served as a text to enlighten and encourage the Jewish people in Jesus’ day. Today’s reading emphasizes God’s mercy and supremacy. God, who is “master of might,” judges “with clemency.” We are called to learn from God’s example of leniency that “those who are just must be kind.” Master over all, God is also “lenient to all,” giving us reason to hope that you would allow repentance. As the maker of all, God does not desire us to perish but to share in eternal life.
Matthew presents us with another of Jesus’ agricultural parables today, though the message is quite different from last week’s. In the parable of the weeds among the wheat, we encounter the notion of God’s judgment. In the Old Testament, the image of a harvest is employed as a metaphor for divine judgment; this imagery is familiar to Jesus’ disciples. Although we might look to pull up the weeds sown among the wheat, God allows the good and the bad to exist side by side, “until harvest.” This is a sign of God’s mercy, for there is a possibility that the sinner will repent—that the “weed” will become “wheat.” God’s patience anticipates the conversion of sinners.
Paul writes that in our weakness we experience the assistance of the Spirit who intercedes for us. On our own we are inadequate; “we do not know how to pray as we ought.” Our salvation depends on God. This is why we are a people of hope, called to live lives of righteousness and to entrust ourselves to God’s mercy.
For Reflection: Have I experienced God’s patience in my life? What does it teach me? What is my approach to the “weeds” I encounter in life: judgment or mercy?
THEOLOGY ON TAP
The St. Peter’s Young Adults (SPYA) invite you to join us once again this year for Theology on Tap. The Theology on Tap begins at 5:30 and will run until approximately 7:00 P.M. Refreshments and snacks will also be served. This program is designed primarily for adults 20-40 years of age, but you are welcome even if you are a bit older. Please join us for the following:
July 21: Fr. Ed Shea, O.F.M., a friar here at St. Peter’s, will speak on the topic “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.” He will offer some reflections on the blessings of reconciliation inside and outside the confessional.
July 28: Mr. Wayne Smith, a layman in the Archdiocese of Chicago, will speak on “Mercy—From Blindness to Sight,” sharing his faith journey and inviting us to look at our own.
August 4: Dave and Martha Meus, a young, Catholic married couple, will speak on “Living the New Evangelization,” in which they will help us to understand and then live this call to be Gospel people in the world.
For those who are interested, our St. Peter’s Young Adults meets every Monday evening from 5:30-7:00 P.M. except on holidays and on the final three weeks of August. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call Fr. Ed Shea at 773-892-4134.
A GREAT OPPORTUNITY NEXT WEEKEND
Next weekend (July 26-27) Blest Art will be visiting our parish on behalf of the Christian families in Bethlehem. For centuries, the Christians and Catholics of Bethlehem have earned a living by carving olive wood religious art to sell to visiting pilgrims. Fewer pilgrims are journeying to the Holy Land today, making it difficult for Christian artisans to support their families by the dignified work of their hands in the land of Christ’s birth.
Because of the lack of work, there has been a dramatic rise in Christian emigration from the Holy land. Christians once made up more than 63% of the population in cities like Bethlehem and its surrounding villages. Now less than 1% of the people in the Holy Land are active Christians.
Since we started in 2001, Blest Art has helped hundreds of struggling families. Mr. Jeryes Qumseya, the president, through his own experience as a master carver, has worked to make it possible for Christians in the Holy Land to maintain both their livelihood and their ancestral homes in the land of Our Lord. The proceeds from Blest Art’s sales also help support community programs such as schools, elderly centers, churches, and clinics.
Blest Art will display their wares in the auditorium after each of the weekend Masses. Please attempt to spend a little time after Mass going down to see these magnificent olive wood carvings and to speak with the Blest Art personnel about the people in the Holy Land. We hope you will also find a way to purchase something for yourself or a loved one.
THE YEAR OF THE SACRAMENTS
Anyone who has been reading our parish bulletin for the past several years is aware that we have been publishing a feature called “One Word at a Time,” sent to all the parishes in the Archdiocese of Chicago in conjunction with the Strategic Plan developed as a means of bringing aspects of the New Evangelization down to the parish level. It has been a good way of offering very practical ways of applying the teaching on an individual and family level. We continue this feature below:
So many good men and women have gone before us. These brave and good people of history continue to inspire us by their example. We tell their stories to keep their memory alive and to allow them to continue to influence our lives. With Jesus, however, it is very different.
For believers, Jesus is not just an inspiring figure of past history. He is the living Lord who is really and truly present to us today in his word, in his Church, and in his sacraments. So, for example, when we celebrate the sacrament of Penance, Jesus does not merely inspire us with a sense of forgiveness. In fact, we meet the living Lord who forgives us through the ministry of the Church and her priests.
The sacraments offer us an unparalleled way to meet Jesus in and through the signs, the words, and the rituals of the Church. He comes so close to meet us, and that leaves us amazed and grateful.
A SUMMERTIME CHUCKLE (DILEMMA)
Job Interview Question: You are driving along in your car on a wild, stormy night. You pass by a bus stop, and you see three people waiting for the bus: 1) an older lady who looks as if she is about to die; 2) an old friend who once saved your life; 3) the perfect man (or woman) you have been dreaming about.
Which one would you choose to offer a ride to, knowing that there could only be one passenger in your car? Think before you continue reading. This is a moral/ethical dilemma that was once actually used as part of a job application.
You could pick up the older lady because she is going to die, and thus you would save her first, or you could take the old friend because he once saved your life, and this would be the perfect chance to pay him back. However, then you may never be able to find your perfect dream lover again.
The candidate who was hired (out of 200 applicants) had no trouble coming up with his answer. He simply answered, “I would give the car keys to my old friend and let him take the lady to the hospital. He could then take my car and get to where he was going. I would stay behind and wait for the bus with the woman of my dreams.”