“Share your bread with the hungry,
shelter the oppressed and the homeless.
clothe the naked when you see them,
and do not turn your back on your own.
These ancient words from the prophet Isaiah seem very clear.
It doesn’t seem too hard, right? And yet, here, here in the United States, we’re living in one of the richest countries in the world… and we haven’t figured it out. Despite our nation’s wealth, we have yet to develop long-term, sustainable solutions to these moral imperatives.
Our rich country is filled with immense suffering—hunger, poverty, homelessness…
It’s not just in an ancient text. It’s right here. In our rich country.
The homeless have not been sheltered.
Oppression is all around us.
Growing up in the Catholic community, I was raised to develop a sense of duty to care for the homeless, helpless, hungry, and forsaken. The practice of “service” and “volunteerism” were baked into the culture of going to church. Collections were taken at Mass, service trips and community projects were organized by the members of our parish.
These tenets became embedded into my ethical understanding of how I am responsible for my neighbor, community, and world.
However, oftentimes, it seemed like we were merely putting a Band-Aid on a much larger wound.
This was a struggle in my formative years as a young adult Catholic and something that still challenges my understanding of the mission of our faith community. I saw much of this work as falling short of how I imagined our world could and should be.
My exposure to and participation in Catholic good works made me impatient for solutions to complex social issues. I studied psychology, sociology, and public policy - seeking a deeper and tactical understanding of how to move our society out of the darkness and into the light.
I didn't find the answers I was looking for in either the church, academia, or even working with local government and nonprofits.
In our second reading, Paul says we can’t rely on human wisdom alone. And that resonates with me. I’ve studied our history. I’ve learned about all the ways we’ve tried to heal our wounded world. We’ve tried. We even conducted a “War” on poverty. And yes, we’ve made some progress. But at this point in our history, with the wealth and abundance surrounding all of us… no one should be patting themselves on the back. Our “human wisdom” has fallen short. Something in our minds and hearts is preventing us from really committing to building the Kingdom of God here on earth.
For me, Isaiah’s message is a challenge to do more than “Band-Aid work.”
For us to step into the light and, like Jesus said, really “let our light shine before others,” we must transform our thoughts and daily behaviors. Caring effectively for the oppressed in our world requires radical transformation. It will take more than seasonal or one-time efforts - like food drives and service trips. It will take nothing less than the Gospel call to conversion – to go beyond our small self to a higher mind and consciousness.
When we engage in this process of transformation, we become moved to change the system that creates human suffering. When we step into this Light, we reckon with how our inaction and silence has maintained the status quo and prevented the emergence of God’s kingdom.
When we draw close to God, we’re led to reject our tendencies to engage in, as Isaiah says, “false accusations and malicious speech.” We’re challenged to look at our own unloving attitudes that can sometimes be pervasive, even though often unconscious.
If we cannot rely on human wisdom alone, as Paul says, then where does that leave us?
We live in information overload. Just turn on the news for 10 minutes, and you know exactly what I mean. The need is so great; the stakes are so high, that it’s easy to succumb to apathy and even a self-preservationist line of thinking. Sometimes the pain and suffering of the world are so great that we silence it.
But if we tune it all out, avoid the pain and suffering, give up hope, point only to the failure of institutions, and accept the issues plaguing our society as inevitable – and permanent – can we really help to create the Kingdom of God?
Visualize God’s Kingdom here on earth - a world where the psychosocial disease of racism is eliminated, where equity is embedded in our worldview and systems; the natural world is protected from environmental harm, the tribalism among our religious sects and political camps is behind us.
Visualize a world where no one hungers, the afflicted are comforted, and people are treated equally regardless of their race, sex, gender, income, education, and sexual orientation.
It’s in our nature to love and serve because of the divine presence within. Look to the scientific findings of contemporary biology. So fundamental is charitable behavior to our nature as humans, we observe a phenomenon that occurs when we help others. Our brains release hormones - boosting our mood and counteracting the effect of stress. When we, as Isaiah proclaims, “share our bread with the hungry and clothe the naked”- our bodies thank us – we are healed, we defy the gloom of our world. Our psyches and spirits are illuminated!
I’m still seeking a path that leads to the transformation of society on a deeper level. As I open my heart to the divine presence, I’m listening more, and trying to discern what God is calling me to do.
And while I recognize that public reform and charity are crucial, I also know this work is about more than handing out bread to the poor. This is more than a one-time public policy measure, philanthropic event, or election; this is a life’s work.
Let us bravely step into the light and, together, be about liberating others and ourselves from oppressive thinking. As we draw closer to the light, perhaps the prophetic words of Isaiah, Paul, and Jesus may embolden us to work toward bringing healing, justice, and peace to our world.
Is this not what the Kingdom of God is all about?
Mary C. Miro
Mary C. Miro
Mary C. Miro has a passion for reform and a deep understanding of how inequity manifests and is preserved in our society. She has centered her career on reforming systems and advancing equity for marginalized people and groups. Mary is deeply committed to channeling inclusive and anti-racist practices through our public and private spaces and dismantling the structural barriers to social and economic progress.
She serves on the Steering Committee of the Equality for Women in the Church ministry at St. Nicholas Church in Evanston, Illinois. Mary became a certified Racial Healing Practitioner through the TRHT Initiative (Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation) and has facilitated racial justice and racial equity programming through Just Faith Ministries.
Mary attended Marquette University, earning her B.A. in Psychology and Sociology. Following Marquette, Mary pursued an M.A. from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration, focusing her studies on public policy, community organizing, and non-profit management. She lives in Chicago and enjoys singing and playing music with her four siblings and parents.
The second of three volumes from the Catholic Women Preach project of FutureChurch offers homilies for each Sunday and holy days of the liturgical year by Catholic women from around the world. The first volume for Cycle A received awards for best book on Liturgy from both the Association of Catholic Publishers and the Catholic Media Association.
“Catholic Women Preach is one of the more inspiring collection of homilies available today. Based on the deep spirituality and insights of the various women authors, the homilies are solidly based on the scriptures and offer refreshing and engaging insights for homilists and listeners. The feminine perspective has long been absent in the preached word, and its inclusion in this work offers a long overdue and pastorally necessary resource for the liturgical life of the Church.” - Catholic Media Association
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