This past Saturday our small community was represented at the 20th anniversary of a Maryknoller who died, while working in Korea. The bishop of the diocese celebrated the Mass with over a hundred Catholics. Even though most of the Koreans are busy making their kimchi this time of the year, the effort was made to be present at the grave site.
The Maryknoller was born in affluent circumstances; probably the reason for his single-mindedness when it came to helping the poor and alienated. The quote on the head stone was very apropos of who he was: "What you have done to the least of these you have done to me."
He was in his approach to the problems that Korea faced not very Korean. He wanted to shock and felt that was the only way one takes notice. He wrote a book that was confiscated by the government during the days of dictatorship; Cardinal Kim of Seoul recommended the book only for the non-faint hearted. His work for the laborers and alienated is still remembered and has left footprints in the Church's memory and in the hearts of many.
A problem one always has in following our Lord and Church teaching is how much can and should you say when you know it will turn off others who feel strongly on the issues and belong to the same community? Sometimes it is not content but the means used to express the position. And sad to say sometimes it is the very content that upsets. At least in theory it should be less of a problem the closer we are to Jesus. Below are a few paragraphs from the preamble of the book that was confiscated.
We are conscious Lord , the centuries of "progress and development" are like spiritual cataracts blinding our inner eyes so that we no longer see your image and likeness in the person of the poor.
The children cry for bread and we give them pious words; they plead for justice and we urge resignation.
Our wealth and industrial power, our weapons and high standards of living are like spiritual barnacles on our souls. We no longer feel the presence of our brother Jesus behind the dirt, hunger and ignorance of a Third World child. Why do we insist on crucifying Christ time and time again?
Why is Good Friday a 1900 year long day with you, Jesus, nailed to a cross of poverty, prejudice and neglect?
You still cry out, "Why oh why hast Thou forsaken me?" Yes, we-not God- have forsaken you. Pleasure and wealth have closed our ears to your plea. Forgive us, God, for we know not what we do.
We drown your gentle whispers to our hearts with barrels of liquor, tons of chemicals, nights of vice , and days of avarice and greed.
Do not abandon us, even though we have abandoned you. Prod us, reprove us, punish us, enlighten us, flood our soul and eyes with your light and vision, that we may awaken from our sleep of centuries, and look out upon the world with truly Christian values, Christian eyes, and Christian hearts....
May he rest in peace, and may we also like him, have a greater love and desire to help those who do not have the blessings of a normal human life.