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A Challenge for 2023: Feed the Hungry

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Maureen Crowley

"The Shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger." (Lk 2:16)
The scene of Jesus' birth in Saint Luke's Gospel has become so romanticized in our imagination over the generations that we've lost sight of what is taught. Our newborn Savior is asleep on a bed of scratchy hay, surrounded by animals and their stench. Mary and Joseph look on as the shepherds arrive from their hard, dirty work in the field to adore the Child.
When we sanitize the image, we miss the point that God chose the poor to be the first recipients of the Good News of Jesus' birth.
In Luke's Gospel (chapter 9), Jesus makes it clear that he aligns himself with the poor when he says that "the Son of Man has nowhere to rest"; He lived a life of poverty, possessing little. In that same chapter, Jesus spells out that he expects us to help those in need. Why else would he send His disciples out with "neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money" unless He had the expectation that others along the journey would reach out in love and care for someone in material poverty?
In our world today, mothers and fathers still look on as their children are born into staggering poverty. Of the 2.3 billion people who, according to the World Health Organization, suffer from moderate to severe food insecurity, about 45 million of them are children who suffer from "wasting" -- the deadliest form of malnutrition, increasing their risk of death by up to twelve times. Another 149 million children have stunted growth and development.
Although the UN set a goal for ending world hunger by 2030, these numbers are actually on the rise. This should be a scandalous idea for those of us committed to living a Gospel-centered life.
So, what can we do in the face of a such a huge challenge? First, make a Jesus-led commitment to the poor. Open your eyes and your heart and you will see countless opportunities to live the Gospel. Second, stop wasting food! The UN says that in the production and consumption of food, about 1.3 trillion tons gets lost or wasted every year. Over a third of that wasted food, thrown out by grocers, restaurants, and households, is still perfectly fit for eating.
Finally, with the money you save, make a New Year's pledge to support an organization like our Missionary Childhood Association, that works to improve the lives of children by feeding their bodies and their souls.
*Hat Tip to Father Pat McGillicuddy, on mission in Brazil, for inspiration.

- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.

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