Can You See God in the Faces of the Hungry?
Human life is a fragile gift, much more fragile than we care to admit. Despite the inspiring stories of rare individuals forced to endure severe adversities and manage to survive, the more common reality of human experience corresponds to the Rule of Threes: the average human being can survive only three minutes without air, three hours in severe conditions without shelter, three days without water, three weeks without food, and three months without hope.
Speaking to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in 2007 and to the Ambassador of Guatemala in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that the right to meet these basic needs flows out of the most fundamental of all human rights.
The right to life is meaningless if the right to things necessary for life’s preservation and full development are not also guaranteed. All people everywhere have a right to food and potable water, to clean air, shelter, and a right to hope for the future. The pro-life stance of our Church carries with it the obligation to feed the hungry. To be truly pro-life means to recognize the moral right of all people to food, to work to eliminate the scourge of hunger from human society, and to tangibly and concretely offer hope to those who have little or no hope for their future.
Even those of us who have never suffered a day of hunger have been taught the importance of food, either by way of being encouraged as children to clean our plates by appeal to the stories of starving children or by being remonstrated for playing with our food. As adults, we are reminded every day of the importance of food by the activities we engage in that give form and shape to our lives. We invite our friends to share meals, we go out to eat on dates when searching for a mate. We celebrate baptisms and weddings and funerals with a banquet. We make business deals over power lunches. When it is available to us, food gives form, shape, and structure to our lives and our relationships. When it is not available, these other essential and meaningful activities of our lives also suffer.