Holy Land Pilgrimage

You Did Unto Me

February 7, 2020

As we move deeper into our Holy Land pilgrimage, my classmates and I have been able to see some of the significant sites that mark moments in our Lord’s life, while also seeing Christ in the people we encounter on our pilgrimage. In Matthew 25, Jesus says, “Whatever you have done to the least of my brothers, you have done to me” (Matthew 25:40). The inhabitants of the Holy Land, Christians, Jews, and Muslims, each contribute to the larger human family, and Christ can be seen in each person, for he fully entered into our humanity in the Incarnation. When we return home, we will be spiritually strengthened by what we have seen in the Holy Land and the grace received from praying at these holy sites. But, will we forget the moments when we saw Christ in the people who live here? And how do we continue to help Christ in the poor, the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the downtrodden, the helpless?


In a few weeks, we begin our Lenten season, a time of preparation for the joyful season of Easter, marked by the three pillars of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. A common practice of almsgiving since I was growing up, is the Lenten rice bowl. Each year, however, I would wonder, ‘where is this money going, who is it helping, what is it being used for?’ Today, I received an answer to those questions, through a presentation by representatives of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) who are stationed here in the Holy Land.

The Lenten rice bowls are sponsored by CRS, which is the official relief and development organization of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. CRS focuses on international assistance, whereas Catholic Charities focuses on domestic aide throughout the United States. CRS has been helping those in need for over the past 75 years. CRS assists over 100 million people in over 110 countries. They respond to emergency situations, such as natural disasters and refugees fleeing war-stricken countries, and also assist those in impoverished living conditions. CRS is grounded in the social teaching of the Catholic Church, built upon the pillars of the protection of the inherent dignity of each human person, the promotion of the common good, subsidiarity, and solidarity. Though I physically cannot help all of those in need around the world, I now see that the donations made to the CRS Lenten rice bowl, assist in bringing relief to those most in need all across the world, bringing assistance to Christ himself. CRS does not discriminate those they support by age, ethnicity, religion, or gender; they help the human person, who is made in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:27).


As we move closer to Lent and ultimately the celebration of the Lord’s resurrection and our own through baptism, may we see Christ anew in those we encounter, the suffering, the poor, the refugee, the immigrant, and seek to help them as if we were helping the Lord himself. Though I do not plan on forgetting the people I have encountered here that revealed Christ to me anytime soon, I am strengthened in hope that my Lenten almsgiving through the CRS rice bowl is ministering to Christ himself by assisting those in the Holy Land and other places where CRS has a presence, of promoting their dignity and human development.


Andy Matijevic
Archdiocese of Chicago

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