The Bible contains many passages which denounce hypocritical worship, that is, worship undertaken by persons who practice injustice and who have no intention of reforming their ways. Passages in Isaiah 58 and Amos 5 come to mind, as does this passage from Sirach 34:23-26.
If one sacrifices ill-gotten goods,
the offering is blemished;
the gifts of the lawless are
The Most High is not pleased
with the offerings of the
nor for a multitude of
sacrifices does he forgive
Like one who kills a son before
his father’s eyes
is the person who offers a
sacrifice from the property
of the poor.
The bread of the needy is the life
of the poor;
whoever deprives them of it is
Writing in the early 1980s on the sixteenth-century figure Bartolomé de las Casas, Enrique Dussel drew upon these lines from Sirach. Las Casas was a cleric who, during the Spanish Conquest of the New World, came to recognize the crimes of the conquistadores.
The Indians of the Arimao river had to hand over to Bartolomé part of the crops they grew and part of their working day, as a form of tribute and under the violence of domination, according to the economic system of “sharing-out.” Bartolomé then came to understand the “misery and slavery (of) these peoples,” and to discover the “blindness, injustices, and tyrannies” of the conquistadores. He suddenly discovered that the “bread” he was about to offer had been snatched from the poor; that it was unconsumed bread; that it was murdering the Indians to deprive them of the fruit of their work… He saw the bread stained with blood.
Dussel argues that in the bread, Las Casas saw contained “the objectivised life of the worker, his blood, his intelligence, his efforts, his love, his enjoyment, his happiness, the kingdom.” This leads Dussel to offer the following reflection:
So those who offer God bread stolen from the poor give God the life of the poor as their offering. The poor is “the Son” (the Indian) and the celebrant (Bartolomé, the “rich man”) who offers this bread unjustly snatched from the poor is offering the “Father” (God) the very life of his Son: “kill–a son before his father’s eyes.” The father who perversely desires the sacrifice of his son, who wants his blood, cannot be a loving father, but only a bloodthirsty idol–Moloch, Mammon, Money.
This is why the text says: “The Most High is not pleased with the offering of the godless.” How could he accept such an offering, which is sacrifice to the Idol, the Fetish, Satan? God does not want the life of his Son to be offered by killing him in his presence. God wants the life of the Son to be a free existence; what he justly wants in sacrifice is the denial of the death of the dead, which death is the need of the poor, the oppressed. Giving the hungry to eat, giving life back to the dead, giving life to those who lack life is the worship required by the Most High. Fetishistic worship offers the Idol stolen bread, the blood of the poor; eucharistic worship offers the Father of goodness the bread of justice, the bread that has satisfied hunger.
Writing twenty years after Dussel, Vince Miller invites us to
consider the awkwardness of praying the offertory over bread and wine that were produced under oppressive conditions. The reference to “fruit of the vine and the work of human hands is destabilizing.” Where indeed does the wine being offered come from? Where do these vines grow? How are they tended? How are the humans whose hands pick the fruit from the vine treated? Anyone with even a vague knowledge of the wine industry in the United States cannot ask those questions without being unsettled.
My question, then, to the world of Pray Tell: Are you aware of parishes or dioceses that have policies in place requiring the use of organic and/or fair-trade wines for their Eucharistic celebrations? I sent out a similar inquiry in a recent edition of the newsletter for the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions; responses are still coming in but so far no diocese has indicated having any policy on the subject.
 Dussel, “The Bread of the Eucharistic Celebration as a Sign of Justice in the Community,” in Can We Always Celebrate the Eucharist? ed. Mary Collins and David Power (New York: Seabury, 1982), 60. Dussel quotes the passages from Sirach on the following page of this article.
 Ibid., 61
 Ibid., 61.
 Vincent Miller, Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture (New York: Continuum, 2003), 191.