Hunger for Justice: A Maryknoll Reflection
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By Teresa Dagdag, M.M.

Sunday, May 7, 2023
Acts 6:1-7 | 1 Pt 2:4-9 | Jn 14:1-12

The liturgies during Easter promise so much hope for all of us. They tell stories of courage and of deep faith. They tell of the disciples risking their lives, telling the truth to the religious authority, the powerful Sanhedrin. And they tell of a united community praying and supporting one another. We are inspired by their unity and generosity, particularly of those who sold their properties to share the proceeds with those neglected.

The early community experienced unity of mind and body, being “faithful to the teachings of the apostles, the common life of sharing, the breaking of bread, and prayers.” (Acts 2:42) After the resurrection of Jesus, the initial fear felt by the disciples of Jesus was transformed into courage to preach the good news and to do as Jesus did — to heal, to enlighten, to invite the infirm to get up and walk. Amazingly, the infirm believed the disciples when they were told to arise and walk without hesitation, and their faith deepened even more.

But as thousands more members joined the community, the Hellenists complained on behalf of the widows who were being neglected. The disciples, who were primarily devoted to prayer and the ministry of the word, chose seven men, who were deep in faith and inspired by the Holy Spirit, “to serve at table” (Acts 6:2).

The neglect of widows in the early post-Resurrection communities leads me to reflect on our world today, on our national and global state of distribution of goods, food, basic needs, shelter, and clothing. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reports that the number of people affected by hunger globally rose as high as 828 million in 2021, an increase of about 46 million that year and over 150 million since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Looking at the millions who suffer from hunger today, we know that our response to hunger has not been adequate. The World Bank reports that in the Philippines, one in three children (29%) younger than five years old suffered from stunting — reduced stature due to malnutrition. Poverty is the key driver of childhood malnutrition.

These days, I find myself responding to requests for food, medicine, and life needs. I come from a country where 23.7% of the population lived below the national poverty line in 2021. One out of five Filipinos live under the poverty level. Despite government programs aimed at helping the poorest of the poor, many households fall through the cracks and are affected by hunger and poverty. I have invited my friends to help share our bounty with others.

As Maryknoll Sisters, we invite people of all walks of life in our ministry to take part in ecological education. In our immersion program for Grade 12 students, we teach how the universe and planet Earth provide for our needs. The students respond in gratitude and express regret for their shortcomings in their relationship with the Earth. They resolve to care for the planet in the ways they are able.

With resources proportionally dwindling among a growing population of our planet Earth, let us invite one another to respond to those who are in need – to feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty and share what we have; just as the disciples of Jesus did after the resurrection.

Maryknoll Sister Teresa Dagdag, of the Philippines, has served in pastoral care, education and advocacy as well as in leadership roles for the Maryknoll Sisters. She holds a Ph.D. in anthropology.

To read other Scripture reflections published by the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, click here.

Featured image: Students accompanied by Maryknoll Sister Teresa Dagdag (far left) clean a well as part of an immersion trip that took place in March and April of 2023. (Courtesy of Teresa Dagdag/the Philippines)

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