Melissa Wheeler
Catholic Relief Services: Rice Bowl
February 28, 2017 // Perspective

What does it mean to be a part of God’s global family?

Melissa Wheeler
Catholic Relief Services: Rice Bowl

Each week of Lent, this reflection series will provide ways to incorporate global solidarity and the struggles of our brothers and sisters throughout the world into your Lenten journey. Here is this week’s installment.

Nation focus: India

Catholic social teaching principle: Preferential option for the poor

Question: What does it mean to be a part of God’s global family?

Scripture quote: “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of Mine, you did for Me.” — Matthew 25:40

Prayer intention: For all those who struggle to grow crops amidst flooding and other natural disasters.

Almsgiving challenge: Give $.50 to CRS Rice Bowl for each type of food you ate that grew in a field.

In India, over 250 million people live on less than $1.90 per day. At the same time, 48 million children under the age of five suffer from stunting. Stunting, which indicates malnutrition, affects children’s physical growth, brain function, organ development and immune system in a way that is long-lasting. Catholic Relief Services works with over 900,000 people in India to improve the lives of families suffering due to hunger and malnutrition in India.

This week CRS shares the story of the Singh family, who are adversely affected by flooding along the Malaguni River in East India. This flooding makes it impossible for the family to get to the town market to buy and sell food. With the help of CRS, Megha and Raj Singh are able to prepare for flooding with new farming techniques. These techniques help them grow vegetables in a kitchen garden and keep other crops safe from flooding so they will have access to good healthy food for their two children and extended family.

It would be hard to talk about our brothers and sisters in India without including St. Teresa of Kolkata. She was a witness to the social principle of preferential option for the poor in vulnerable. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops tells us that “a basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring. In a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor, our tradition recalls the story of the last judgment (Mt 25:31-46) and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.” Through St. Teresa’s caring for the poorest of the poor, “Jesus in His most distressing disguise” as she put it, we see a model for how to serve our brothers and sisters who are in need. This legacy continues in the 4,500 Missionaries of Charity who serve the poor through basic care still today. These sisters serve refugees, the terminally ill, abandoned children, the elderly, and many others. We are challenged to see Christ in our neighbor. We are called to recognize the radical humanity of every human person. Seeing each human being as worthy of care and support will impel us to want basic needs to be met. A dignified person deserves food, shelter, basic health care, etc. As St. Teresa told us, “Nakedness is not only for a piece of cloth. Nakedness is for human dignity, for respect. Homelessness is not only for a home made of bricks. Homelessness is being rejected, unwanted, unloved, uncared for, having forgotten what is human love, what is human touch.” When we see a brother or sister living in poverty we must not only be concerned with their material need, albeit important, but we must recognize the multifaceted needs of the human person … our spiritual well-being. This week, strive to see the radical humanity of your brothers and sisters in need.

Melissa Wheeler is the diocesan director for Catholic Relief Services.

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