When I began writing this column, it was the Solemnity of Christ the King;  an awesome reminder that while kingdoms and kings of all sorts, up and down the centuries, come and go, our Lord Jesus Christ is King of the universe. And his kingdom will have no end!

And the King, as we heard in the final judgement scene recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, will judge us according to how well we served him or did not serve him, who is present in the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked/ill-clad, the sick and imprisoned. Nowhere in all sacred Scripture is the path to eternal life, or the losing of it, spelled out more clearly than the gospel for the Solemnity of Christ the King.

Quite intentionally, the Sunday immediately before the Solemnity of Christ the King is the Catholic Church’s World Day of the Poor.

Highlighting this year’s World Day of the Poor message from Pope Francis was this emphasis from the biblical book of Tobit: “Do not turn your face away from anyone who is poor.” The pope reminds us that “our daily efforts to welcome the poor are still not enough.” And how could Christians in good conscience think otherwise when “One it ten people around the world goes to be bed hungry at night. And one in four children under age five is severely malnourished,” according to Bread for the World (BFW).

Even in the US — which has the world’s largest economy — over 40 million Americans, including 12 million children, struggle to put food on the table. According to BFW the measure of hunger in the U.S. is “food insecurity”– an ongoing uncertainty of where the next meal will come from.

Hunger is global. More than 700 million people around the world experience the pain of hunger every day. And of special concern, “in 45 countries, more than 50 million people are facing emergency levels of hunger – meaning they are struggling to live in the face of famine.”

In his inspiring World Day of the Poor message, Pope Francis is calling for the God-given human rights of the poor and hungry to be met. He firmly states: “Certainly there is a need to urge and even pressure public institutions to perform their duties properly.”

So, please urge your national government representatives to significantly increase budget funding for poverty and hunger alleviation.

And readers in the U.S., please contact your members of Congress urging them to robustly increase funding for national and international food assistance in the Farm Bill – which supports successful programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the McGovern-Dole international school lunch program, which if left underfunded will cause millions of children to go hungry and face starvation.

And please consider a donation to help the desperately poor people of war-torn Sudan and South Sudan.

While our Lord Jesus has a unique, wonderful love for each one of us, he has an extra special love for the poor and vulnerable.

Hanging above my desk is a drawing of Christ of the Breadlinesa moving print of a woodcutting by the Quaker artist Fritz Eichenberg who was a close friend of the famous peace activist and co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement Dorothy Day.

This spiritually evocative print depicts a simple, poorly clothed Christ standing in a soup kitchen line amidst other simple, poorly clothed men and women. If you let the Spirit touch your heart, Christ of the Breadlines will stir up a deep sense of Jesus’ answer to the question of those being saved: “When did we see you hungry and feed you?” To which the saved will hear the Lord comfortingly say, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Image: Christ of the Breadlines by Fritz Eichenberg. “Christ of the Breadlines (by Fritz Eiche” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by jimforest

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Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at tmag6@comcast.net

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