by Father Mark Goldasich
Ever confess to stealing? According to Mahatma Gandhi, we should . . . a lot more often.
Here’s what he had to say over 60 years ago: “I suggest that we are thieves in a way. If I take anything that I do not need for my own immediate use, and keep it, I thieve it from somebody else. . . . In India, we have got three millions of people having to be satisfied with one meal a day, and that meal consisting of unleavened bread (chapatti) containing no fat in it, and a pinch of salt. You and I have no right to anything that we really have until these three millions are clothed and fed better. You and I, who ought to know better, must adjust our wants, and even undergo voluntary starvation in order that they may be nursed, fed and clothed.”
Those are sobering words, even truer today than when they were first uttered. Although Gandhi speaks of India, the problem of food insecurity or hunger knows no national bounds. Worldwide, there are some 800 million hungry people. Back in 2005, 35 million of those — 12 million of whom were children — were found right here in the United States. And, if those numbers are too difficult to wrap your mind around, consider this: Every 3.6 seconds someone dies of hunger.
Although school has been in session for a couple of weeks, I still think of Labor Day as the official time for “back to school.” And, so long as we’re drawing breath on this earth, we’re all students with things to learn, especially in the school of life.
Perhaps Gandhi’s words, especially that last sentence, can be our lesson for this last third of 2011. As Christians, we “ought to know better” and recognize the face of Christ in all who suffer.
With that in mind, let’s pretend that we’ve just started a new school year and are sitting in a class about how to practice our Christian faith. Over the next few weeks, consider this your homework:
1. Read the passage from the Gospel of Matthew about the Last Judgment (Mt 25: 31-46). As of right now, are you standing among the goats or the sheep? Be honest; no cheating or hedging.
2. Examine your last week of meals: How many times did you pray before you ate? Did you remember to pray after eating? Do you remember to pray even when just snacking or “grazing”?
3. How much food did you throw away over the last few days because it was outdated, spoiled, freezer-burned, etc.? When eating out, do you waste food or overeat?
4. Do you have any idea of what food might be lurking in the backs of your shelves and cabinets? How and why did it get pushed to the back? Do you know what’s presently in your refrigerator or freezer? Do you have a system for keeping track of food and using it in a timely fashion?
5. When was the last time that you practiced “voluntary starvation” so that others could eat? Do you set aside some money throughout the year for the hungry or only for the Rice Bowl at Lent? How often do you pick up an extra can or box of food or some nonperishable item when you’re out shopping to donate to a food pantry?
6. The next time you’re out grocery shopping, instead of complaining about the rising prices, take a moment to marvel at the abundance and variety of items available to you.
7. When inclement weather arrives, be sure to offer to pick up groceries for elderly neighbors or those who may be afraid to venture out on the roads.
8. Research religious organizations that feed the hungry and care for the poor: Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging, etc. Resolve to get involved in their work in some fashion.
9. For extra credit: When was the last time you cleaned out your closets, attic, basement and garage? How many perfectly good, useable items did you find? What did you do — toss them, rebox them, put them in a storage shed, or donate them to charity?
Sadly, Gandhi once said, “If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today.” Our challenge is always to make our faith in Jesus something much more than words.
Who knows? If we learn our lesson with something as simple as food, maybe it will be enough for us to one day steal into heaven.