Aug 3, 2014

"You yourselves give them something to eat!"

In Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of Gospel), there are two key words for Pope Francis as he explores the root causes of social justice issues which are "exclusion and inequality." For example, in denouncing the modern economic system he writes as follows.
Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills.(53)

Then he explains these two terms as follows.
How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. (53)
It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.(53)

On the 18 Sunday of ordinary time, Gospel message was from Mathew 14:13-21, the famous story of five loaves and two fish. Based on this gospel passage, Caritas Internationalis has been campaigning against world poverty which is called "One Human Family, Food for All" campaign and will continue till May 2015. Caritas Japan is also joining this campaign and using "Five loaves and two fishes" as our title of campaign in Japan.

In Evangelii Gaudium, the key image of the Church is the "Church which goes forth", so he explains his understanding as follows.
Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the “peripheries” in need of the light of the Gospel.
Then he explains as we go forth, what would be our priorities.
If the whole Church takes up this missionary impulse, she has to go forth to everyone without exception. But to whom should she go first? When we read the Gospel we find a clear indication: not so much our friends and wealthy neighbours, but above all the poor and the sick, those who are usually despised and overlooked,(48)
We should not just wait for someone to take action to reach out to those excluded or discriminated. It is us to take action as Jesus commanded disciples that "you yourselves give them something to eat!" Jesus did not want his own flock to be dispersed and find solution for their problems on their own. Rather he prefers to keep his flock together despite heavy burden and give sufficient consideration and care among each other. No one should be excluded. No one should be forgotten.

It is not just talking about food issue. It is also the same for making peace. As we have been witnessing brutal killings of innocent civilians especially children by military forces and armed group in Gaza for past few weeks, we should know that weapon and sword could not bring peace but death, exclusion, hatred and division. I think, as some politicians are claiming recently, we may need peculiar kind of courage to claim that military power could be deterrent power to prevent war. We have to avoid any way to divide people, any people because we all belong to one and only flock of God. This is high time that we should learn the way to give sufficient consideration and care among each other so that we may be able to build one united flock of God.  And that is not the duty of someone else, not for politicians, not for world leaders, but the duty of all of us because Jesus commanded that we should not rely on others but we ourselves give them something to eat.

Pope Francis is visiting Asia for first time soon. He will be in Korea from 14 to 18 August. Japanese bishops are also invited to join the celebration with Holy Father. I will be there on 16 to attend the beatification Mass of 124 martyrs and on 17 for closing Mass of Asia Youth Day. As he comes to us, we have to be ready to respond to his call to "go forth".