Teaching how to fish is not enough

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…
to preach Good News to the Poor.
Luke 4: 18-19

There are bishops who are good news to the poor.

Five years ago today Bishop Samuel Ruiz, retired bishop of San Cristobal de Las Casas, in Chiapas, Mexico, passed on to his Lord.

A defender of the indigenous, he was loved by the poor but vilified by the rich and powerful. He developed a diaconate program among the indigenous in his diocese, which was eventually squelched by Vatican authorities. But when Pope Francis visits Mexico he will, according to reports, visit the tomb of Jtatic Samuel.

I visited the tomb in late January 2012 and saw it adorned with flowers.

Don Samuel's tomb

Tomb of Don Samuel Ruiz

I wrote about him in an earlier post, where I also mentioned Sister Dorothy Marie Hennessey, another witness for the poor. But today I want to share this reflection of Don Samuel which appeared in Catholic Peace Ministry Newsletter, June 2000:

      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.

May Don Samuel inspire all of us to be Good News to the poor – accompanying them and working to change the structures that keep them impoverished.


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