Matthew 25:31- 46 clearly expresses what is asked of a follower of Christ. In my Catholic formation the Ten Commandments were the most common guidelines for confession and the basics for a good life. However, Christ did not preach the 10 Commandments; he preached love of God and neighbor. Matthew 25 breaks down how He expects us to live. Christ stood for the underdog. Whether homeless, hungry, without possessions, sick, and a stranger or in prison, Christ’s presence is there as surely as He is in the Eucharist. It is no accident that in John’s Gospel at the Last Supper Christ washes the Apostles’ feet. It is good we ritualize this act on Holy Thursday, but I believe He might prefer the actions of St. James parishioners who visit the Oxford Street Inn once a month on Thursdays and care for the feet of the homeless men.
Unemployment is high, people are losing their homes and our country’s rhetoric is turning harsh. In these circumstances the weakest in our society are often treated most severely. Immigrants, known as strangers in Matthew 25, are vilified. Our Muslim neighbors, our fellow Catholics from Mexico and Central America find little comfort in our community. All the popes since Vatican II have expressly asked the peoples of the U.S. and Western Europe to take up our Christian obligation to help the desperate people of the Third World. Pope John Paul II used the parable of Lazarus to make this point. Lazarus was the poor beggar who lived at the gate of the rich man. The rich man did not mistreat Lazarus; in fact, he let him sleep at the gate. However, Christ counts this benign neglect for nothing. The rich man goes to hell. It is Lazarus who becomes one with God.
A rebel leader in Sudan in an interview with an intrepid female reporter asked her, “Aren’t all the people in the U.S. rich?” She responds, “No.” He asked a follow up question. “Do all people in the U.S. have flush toilets?” She answers, “Yes, pretty much.” With a sense of clarity the rebel leader affirmed, “As I suspected. All the people in the U.S. are rich.”
Without visiting the Third World we don’t realize the extent of their need. However, with the Gospel and our religious leaders imploring us to help our Third World brothers and sisters, we only turn away at our eternal peril.
For the last 10 years, both St. Michael on Onondaga Hill and St. James in Cazenovia have worked closely with sister parishes in Haiti. The people of the Syracuse Diocese donated $700,000 to Catholic Relief Services for the earthquake victims in Haiti. With leadership from St. James and St. Michaels’ our diocese needs to work day by day to help the poorest people in the Western hemisphere.
The Sudanese people in our midst have undergone horrors but have a deep belief in God. Their section of Sudan will vote for independence in January 2011. These wonderful people are asking that we pray and support them. St. Vincent de Paul Church has been the home for Sudanese since 2001.
The mission of the Social Action Ministry Office is to help Catholics follow the path of Matthew 25. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Call (315) 470-1423 for more information on Catholic Social Teaching.