Social Justice Corner for June 19, 2022

(I am writing a monthly column for my parish bulletin’s Social Justice Ministry, reflecting on the Sunday Readings)

Food for All

Today on The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, we reflect on Jesus feeding a crowd of 5000 as well as him providing everlasting supernatural food in the form of the Eucharist. The miracle of Jesus multiplying the loaves and fishes so much so that baskets were left over foreshadowed him giving us his Body and Blood, spiritual food that will never run out.

In the second reading, St. Paul remembers Jesus’s last supper when he instituted the Eucharist. The gospel reading gives the familiar account of the loaves and fishes. In this story, we see Jesus’ care and concern for the bodily needs of those who followed him and listened to his teachings. Sr. Helen Prejean, an internationally known advocate for the abolition of the death penalty, talked about a turning point in her life in her book Dead Man Walking that became a major motion picture in 1995 and subsequently landed on the New York Times Bestsellers list for eight months. In 1980 she attended a talk by Sister Marie Augusta Neal, who presented on the topic of social justice and the message of Jesus:

“The Gospels records that Jesus preached good news to the poor, and an essential part of that good news was that they were to be poor no longer. Which meant they were not to meekly accept their poverty and suffering as God’s will, but instead, struggle to obtain the necessities of life which were rightfully theirs. And Jesus’ challenge to the nonpoor was to relinquish their affluence and to share their resources with the dispossessed.”

This message caused a shift in Sr. Prejean’s heart that led her to dedicate her life to helping people who were poor and from marginalized communities, accompanying those on death row and imprisoned, and advocating for the abolition of the death penalty.

As disciples who follow in Jesus Christ’s footsteps, how can we also have a change of heart like Sr. Helen that stirs us to help “the least of these” and create change in our society? How can we be inspired by Jesus’s message in Luke 4:18 to preach the gospel to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, and liberty to those who are oppressed?

When we receive the Eucharist, we receive spiritual food that helps us become more like Jesus. With this sacrament, we are equipped to answer God’s call and carry out the mission He has for each of us in the world.

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