If they offer you a fish…

Monseñor Samuel Ruíz, called Jtatic Samuel by the indigenous people of his diocese, died a year ago on January 24, 2011. He was bishop of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, and an ardent defender of the indigenous.

I am leaving today to attend the wedding of a friend in San Cristóbal and look forward to visiting his tomb. My friend’s father was the bishop’s chauffer and so I hope to hear some stories of this legendary bishop and prophet.

In June 2000, the Des Moines Catholic Peace Ministry Newsletter  published this reflection of Bishop Samuel:

It’s a very well known saying that if someone offers you a fish, you don’t take it. You ask him to teach you how to fish.

So, Pedro learns how to fish. He goes to the store and he says, “I want to buy a net and I want to buy a hook,” And the owner of the store says, “Uh, what’s going on here, Pedro? You learned how to fish?”

He says, “Yeah, I learned how to fish.” Then the owner says to him, “OK, but what you didn’t know is you have to sell me a portion of your fish.” And Pedro says, “OK,” and he goes out and starts fishing.

He’s on the edge of the lake and soon he feels somebody tapping on his shoulder and somebody is standing there, telling him, “What’s going on here? You can’t be fishing here. This is private land.” And so they push him off.

Pedro has been given a skill, but that’s not enough. You can work on the “development” of the individual person, but the other half of that is working on the structural injustices.

The only question at the end of our lives is about entering the Reign of God: the reign prepared for those who visited the least of their sisters and brothers in jail and who fed them when they were hungry, the reign which those who reject the poor will not enter.

So the ultimate question is not a question of orthodoxy [right belief] but of orthopraxy [right practice]. The final question is not was I right or wrong but did I love my sisters and brothers or not. Whether I was loving my brothers or sisters or not — that is the only question.

Great insights from a prophet of our age.

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