Blessed Teresa of Calcutta called it the “Gospel in Our Five Fingers,” using one hand to count off the words in Matthew (25:40): “You-did-it-for-me.” That explains why she dedicated herself to serving the poor.
Preceding those words in Matthew, Christ explains that those who will be welcomed into the kingdom of heaven are the ones who saw him hungry and fed him, who saw him thirsty and gave him drink, who welcomed him when he was a stranger, clothed him when he was naked, cared for him when he was ill and visited him when he was imprisoned.
And when those awaiting judgment say that they never saw him in these circumstances, Christ replies, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
This speaks so eloquently to what you do through Catholic Relief Services. Think for a moment of people facing horrific emergencies. Here in Maryland, many of our staff recently had their own emergency as a storm that tore through the region left millions without power during a terrible heat wave. Many took in friends and neighbors, aided strangers. We coped. We survived.
But losing electricity for a few days is such a small inconvenience compared to the emergencies you respond to every day through the work of CRS. Of course, you know of the bigger ones: the earthquake in Haiti, the tsunamis in the Indian Ocean and Japan. Such events, so sudden and catastrophic, strike our hearts, and almost instinctively we reach out in sympathy.
CRS began in response to an emergency—caring for the refugees of World War II. We responded as Christ demanded, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, welcoming the stranger. Over time, we realized that people all over the world who were not facing an emergency still had desperate needs, so we now seek to help them with our ongoing development work.
But emergency response remains an important part of the CRS mission. And not just response to the emergencies that make the headlines. For instance, recent monsoon rains in northeastern India led to the deaths of 120 people and forced some 6 million from their homes. Many lost nearly everything in the torrential storms in the Assam state, which borders Bhutan and Bangladesh. Flooding destroyed thousands of homes.
In the midst of the heat wave and political storms in the United States, the catastrophe received little attention in the media. But you are already there helping, because CRS has long been active in India. Our experts on the ground know that one of the biggest problems following a flood is waterborne disease. So, working through our partners, we supplied safe drinking water and other hygiene items to thousands of families.
As some of you know, a severe food crisis is gripping the Sahel region of West Africa. Although it has affected millions of people, it is not drawing the kind of attention dramatic events like earthquakes or tsunamis do. The crisis developed gradually as rains failed and crops withered and stores were depleted. But CRS is there, feeding those who are hungry and comforting strangers—the refugees from political turmoil in Mali.
CRS is there because of you. Your generosity allows us to respond immediately when a crisis hits people—even if it doesn’t hit the headlines. We are not there to get publicity or to raise funds. We are there to help.
An emergency that does not get widespread attention affects the lives of people in the same ways as better-known disasters. That’s why CRS is present: because people are in need. And that’s why you are there with us: because Christ told us to be there. He told us that whatever we did for these people, “you did it for me.”
May blessings overflow,
Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo
President & CEO
Tags: Emergency Response
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