The Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
2015 – Cycle B
1 Kings 19:4-8; Psalm 34; Ephesians 4:30-5:2; John 6:41-51
- Parents who have children with learning disabilities or are handicapped in some manner often have to struggle with school districts for needed services.
- Elderly people in healthcare facilities and nursing homes often need someone to speak up for them or to assist them at a physician’s appointment.
- Does not someone need to stand up for a child who is being bullied?
We often ask a friend to speak in our name to mend and heal an estranged relationship.
Traveling in a country where you do not know the language can be very harrowing. A friendly bilingual native can easily smooth out many a confusing and difficult situation.
Have you ever been on either side of one of these or a similar experience? Have you ever needed someone to speak up for you? …or have you ever pleaded the cause for another person?
The Gospels are filled with stories of people in need; people who cannot speak up for themselves.
- John’s Gospel records that Jesus is thrust into public ministry by his mother who speaks up for a newly married couple that they might not be embarrassed in front of their guests. “When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “The have no wine.”…His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.”” [John 2:3, 5].
- Many advocates recorded in the Gospels are parents pleading for their children. Jairus, the synagogue official, “Seeing Jesus he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him saying, “My daughter is at the point of death. Please come and lay your hands on her that she may get well and live.”” [Mark 5:22-23].
- An anonymous father cries out from the crowd, “Teacher, I beg you, look at my son, he is my only child. For a spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams and it convulses him until he foams at the mouth…” [Luke 9:38-39].
- “A Canaanite woman…called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” [Matthew 15:22]
The Roman centurion pleaded with Jesus that his slave be healed while the Jewish elders of the town spoke up for the centurion as worthy for Jesus to act. Over and over we hear of people bringing the sick, the lame, the blind and the deformed advocating that Jesus might heal them. Even Jesus, though to no avail, had one person speak up for him. “While Pilate was still seated on the [judgment] bench, his wife sent him a message, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man….” [Matthew 27:19]. Was it too little, too late?
People who cannot speak or act for themselves need an advocate. Advocacy, championing the just cause of a person or a people is part of Catholic social teaching. Advocacy is a part of the work of justice and is different from charity. And though different, Catholic Christians are called by the Gospel to live out both charity and advocacy. We must do the work of charity and address the immediate needs of people. We do this through agencies such as food pantries, Catholic Charities USA or Catholic Relief Services. The work of advocacy goes deeper addressing the root cause of an unjust situation. Simply put, charity feeds the hungry. Advocacy asks why people are hungry and what can be done to end hunger. Charity is the compress to initially close a wound. Advocacy is the surgery that heals the wound.
In the light of Jesus feeding the five thousand the issue of hunger in our world, our habits of eating and our responsibility to each other by how much we use of the world’s resources have been addressed. Now, in accordance with our prayers, we are called taking charity with us to move toward advocacy. We will pray to Christ in the Eucharist Prayer:
Bring your Church, O Lord, to perfect faith and charity,…Open our eyes to the needs of our brothers and sisters; inspire in us words and actions…Make us serve, after the example of Christ and at his command. …may your Church stand as a living witness to… justice, that all people may be raised up to a new hope.
[Eucharistic Prayer for use in Masses for Various Needs IV]
Giving people hope is the goal of charity and advocacy. By opening our eyes to need and using inspired words and actions we plead for our sisters and brothers, like Mary, the centurion, the Canaanite woman and Jairus, for people who have no voice or hope.
In light of our prayer and the Word of God, I am inviting you to take the time immediately after Mass in our Parish Center to write three letters to our congressional representatives in regard to services that particularly feed children. Be a voice, be an advocate, for children, mothers, fathers, the elderly and families who are hungry in our country. Everything you need, including sample letters, is being provided. You only need to supply the time and care. Studies have shown that personal, concise, handwritten letters requesting a specific action or support of a bill, rather than a form letter, are the best way to communicate with members of Congress.
For those of us who have never experienced hunger or the fear of want, hunger may seem like a parallel universe but it is a real, daily universe of struggle and worry for many people in our world, our country and in our area. To paraphrase Mary at the wedding in Cana and the boy, Kifah caught in the jaws of the Syrian war that I spoke about two weeks ago: “They have no bread.”
Let us therefore heed the Book of Proverbs: “Open your mouth on behalf of the mute, and for the rights of the destitute; Open your mouth, decree what is just, defend the needy and the poor!” [Proverbs 31:8-9]