Feed the hungry (continued)

By Rev. Fr. Eva Chuma Nnamene

Hunger is a frequent human occurrence. To satisfy this human frequency, one needs the material food or some enablement for it. Actually, when Jesus talked about feeding the hungry, He meant providing material foods for them. But He was also aware that the provision of material foods alone will not, sufficiently, take care of their needs.

Last week we talked about some of the human conditions that make it difficult for some people to provide food on their tables. At times, some of those conditions are manmade structures that create and sustain wide spread poverty that would last in perpetuity unless such structures are destroyed. For instance, there is this story of a widow whose late husband left six children to be raised. She also inherited landed properties from him.

And with those, she was bound to raise the children with ease. But no sooner had the man died than his family members rushed in. Advocating the customs and traditions of the community, the new elder in the family - given the exit of the deceased, took up all the landed properties - leaving none for his brother's family. This is an example of the obnoxious structures that may promote the presence of too many hungry persons in our society.

If such structures are there, and we find some material food to feed the hungry, we may be giving them fish instead of teaching them to fish in order to feed themselves. If we keep such obnoxious structures around, there is no way we can keep Jesus' invitation to feed the poor. This is why elimination of all structures that encourage injustice, selfishness, man's inhumanity to man, and a lot more was at the foreground of the 20th Century's liberation theology which had "preferential option for the poor" as its central focus.

Addressing this issue of structural divide, Pope Paul VI said, "The superfluous wealth of rich countries should be placed at the service of poor nations. The rule which up to now held good for the benefit of those nearest to us, must today be applied to all the needy of this world. Besides, the rich will be the first to benefit as a result. Otherwise their continued greed will certainly call down upon them the judgment of God and the wrath of the poor, with consequences no one can foretell" (Populorum Progressio, n. 49).

Towing the same line, the U.S. Catholic Bishops said, As followers of Christ, we are challenged to make a fundamental "option for the poor" - to speak for the voiceless, to defend the defenseless, to assess life styles, policies, and social institutions in terms of their impact on the poor. This "option for the poor" does not mean pitting one group against another, but rather, strengthening the whole community by assisting those who are the most vulnerable.

As Christians, we are called to respond to the needs of all our brothers and sisters, but those with the greatest needs require the greatest response (Economic Justice for All, n. 16). In responding to the needs of others, we should help them to learn how to fish to enable them provide for themselves; and we should remove structures that make the rich, richer, and the poor, poorer. It is then that we respond to Jesus call to feed the hungry.

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