Today's Zenit posting had an article titled: Nuns Invited to Help Poor by Drinking Tea. Interesting idea, I thought. Help the poor by drinking tea. (I like coffee more.) Sounds easy and given the recent economic problems we're facing in the USA --and scanning the news services shows problems with the economy are global-- I wonder what we are doing about the poor of this country. Granted the poor in the developing world are far poorer and have much less access to resources to fulfill human basic needs than our poor brothers and sisters in the USA. Nonetheless, I think we all need to figure out an adequate plan on how to assist the poor in our own cities and abroad. The Beatitudes quickly come to mind as does the parable of the widow's mite, and the rich young man. I'd be negligent if I didn't say the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
A variety of religious congregations of sisters are leading the charge by making this invitation as concrete as possible by encouraging others to buy tea and coffee sold by Fairtrade workers. Of course, the Franciscans are behind this good work! The Zenit article says: "Springing from a financial vision and a commitment based on the values of the Gospel," the organizers explained, "new economic relations can arise, challenging men and women religious to make their choices as consumers, beginning with a critical conscience, with bases in the political, economic and social reality." My challenge: let's not let the vowed religious do this act of mercy alone.
Are good deeds only left to nuns and priests? I hope not. The Good News of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is for all people and therefore we have to let the words announcing our salvation to cut closely to our human experience. Would it be possible for us, on this side of the ocean, to purchase food products from Fairtrade? Yes, because Fairtrade also operates here in the USA. See the links below. Those unfamilar with the work of Fairtrade should know that it is an organization that represents more than 4,000 groups of workers worldwide.
In early January, the Pope called on Governments to assist the poor: "We need to give new hope to the poor," he said. "How can we not think of so many individuals and families hard pressed by the difficulties and uncertainties which the current financial and economic crisis has provoked on a global scale? How can we not mention the food crisis and global warming, which make it even more difficult for those living in some of the poorest parts of the planet to have access to nutrition and water?" (Address to Diplomatic Corps, 8 January 2009). Pope Benedict, quoting the First Letter of Saint John, offers us a challenge in this year's Lenten message: "If anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet shuts up his bowels of compassion from him -- how does the love of God abide in him?" (1 John 3:17).