The Blood of the Martyrs, the Homeless and the Children in Need

Author: Juan Contreras Tapia, SVD
Subject: Poverty
Language: English, Spanish
Playing with Children
Playing with Children

In the month of October, we celebrate the martyr St. Callixtus I, who was in charge of the catacombs of the martyrs on the Appian Way. On his feast day (14/10), the Gospel (Lk 11:47-54) speaks of the blood of the martyrs. As an SVD theological community, we have Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns as our patron and we remember him every 14th of October on the occasion of the centenary of his life. He represents someone who fought tirelessly for the martyrs and those who were treated unjustly in everyday life.

A meeting with children
A meeting with children

For the Jews, blood was the place where life resides, that life which, when spilt on earth, cries out to God, as happened with the blood of Abel. In fact, since that first unjust murder, symbolizing the millions of murders out of greed, avarice, exploitation, and power.  Death and more death continue to occur in our world!

The blood of the innocent continues to cry out from the bowels of the earth where it was shed. In that logic, Jesus said to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law: your fathers shed blood, they took the lives of the prophets, even in the most sacred place for a Jew: between the altar and the sanctuary. And all in the name of power, greed, avarice, and exploitation!  Jesus mentions the prophet Zechariah, the last of the prophetic tradition to the people. In another passage Jesus will speak of John the Baptist, just as the first reading from the Letter to the Romans (3:24-25) speaks to us of the blood of Jesus Christ that saves us.

Although I always say that history never repeats itself, sometimes I have the impression that today history does repeat itself: many of those businesspeople who sustain this economic system of death are shedding the blood and extinguishing the lives of the prophets who cry out with their testimonies, with their words, but also of those who live each day in silence. “Woe to you” who kill men and women little by little, without taking their lives immediately, but in installments and with interest…. As Pope Francis said, “We are living a world war in pieces, little by little”… and the blood of the people continues to be shed.

Covid 19 Food Distribution
Covid 19 Food Distribution

To conclude this reflection, I would like to share with you two testimonies that I have drawn from my experience in street ministry, together with the “Alimentando Direitos” project (Feeding Rights), which distributes 1,000 lunches a day to the homeless people in the banking sector of 192 Tabatinguera Street, in downtown São Paulo. The first of these did not happen to me but was told to me by someone who works with us at the Rede Rua Association. She told us that, after a visit to the São Paulo City Hall, by some members of the work team and some of our colleagues, they went back to have lunch at the service place, in the bankers’ yard. There, everyone sat around the table to eat, while one of the convivium members said emotionally: “I am grateful, because it has been 5 years since I last sat at the table to eat with someone”. A gesture that for us is daily so trivial, and empty of meaning, for others becomes a great sign of humanity.

The second testimony took place two days ago, during the celebration of Children’s Day, in the occupation of “Nova Jerusalém”, near the Guarapiranga dam. A child, after a beautiful morning of activities, games, smiles and gifts, said to me and a volunteer: “You are so cool! I want to go with you. He knew that, in spite of everything, he was living a life with many needs… already as a child he was living a wounded, torn, unjust life, almost spilled on the earth….
As long as we have leaders and authorities who do not see this, who do not have a vision that is concerned with life, who are humanists, we will continue killing prophets, we will continue martyring our people.

May St. Callixtus, all the martyrs, and Dom Paulo Evaristo Arns intercede for us so that we may be prophets of justice, ready to shed even our own blood if necessary.


Juan Contreras Tapia, SVD

Juan Contreras Tapia, SVD, a native of Chile, is a seminarian of the Congregation of the Divine Word. He began his studies in Chile and made his novitiate in Juquiá, SP, Brazil. He is currently studying the second year of theology at ITESP (Instituto Teológico S. Paulo). Since the beginning of 2021 he has been working in street ministry, together with the Rede Rua project.

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