Once upon a time, Donny is in a restaurant the other day and he orders chicken soup. He starts eating it but he doesn’t see any chicken in the soup. So, he calls over the waitress to complain about the lack of chicken. She tells him “If you don’t like it that way you better not order dessert!” “Why?” he asks. She looks at him and says “It’s angel food cake.”
Jesus feeds thousands, thousands. But who are they? Jesus feeds thousands with barley bread and salted fish but these things are not food for the rich!
A few years ago, I am out with a friend and we discuss hunger and poverty in America…no small topic. Out of the blue, and, probably out of frustration he remarks, “Where are these hungry people? Have you ever met a hungry American?” I quietly look at him and ask, “Have you forgotten that you and I are dining in Du Page County, among the most affluent counties in America? The hungry here are hidden.” My brothers and sisters, 9.1% of people in Du Page County are “food insecure.” That is, they are not assured of three meals a day. At LOAVES AND FISHES in Naperville, serves about 600 families each week- half of them are children.
When Jesus encounters the hungry he tells his disciples not to dismiss them. Give them some food yourselves, he tells them. “You feed them,” he says. “You,” meaning, “You who believe in me, feed them. But the disciples do not. They lack ingenuity. They lack good thinking. They refuse to think outside the box and say to the Lord, “We only the five loaves and two fish- what do you expect us to do?”
Bring them here to me, Jesus says. Bring them here to me and I will feed them with the five loaves and two fish! In the words of Isaiah the prophet, we do not need money. We do not need position. God will feed the hungry and God will feed the hungry through you and through me.
But you know what really bothers me? People who judge poor people without the facts. We believe that we can recognize the poor and the hungry when in reality the real poor are just one paycheck away from poverty. On the LOAVES AND FISHES blog, Darlene talks about her own situation. She says, “This wasn’t supposed to happen to people like me… That’s the funny thing about being poor. Everyone has an opinion on it, and everyone feels entitled to share. That was especially true about my husband’s Mercedes. Over and over again, people asked why we kept that car, offering to sell it in their yards or on the Internet for us. And even if we had wanted to do that, here’s what people don’t understand: The reality of poverty can spring quickly while the psychological effects take longer to surface. When you lose a job, your first thought isn’t, “Oh my God, I’m poor. I’d better sell all my nice stuff!” It’s “I need another job. Now.” When you’re scrambling, you hang on to the things that work, that bring you some comfort. That Mercedes was the one reliable, trustworthy thing in our lives.” (see http://www.loaves-fishes.org)
I bet if you and I spent some time at LOAVES AND FISHES we would discover that most of the hungry and poor who come to the food pantry are women and the elderly. If we ponder St. Matthew’s Gospel today we find a very important verse at the end. He writes: “Those who ate were five thousand men, not counting women and children.” The scripture scholar Sister Barbara Reid claims that Jesus makes it his mission to include everyone in the Eucharistic action, men, AND those who do not count in first century society, the women and the children. St. Matthew seems to struggle with this idea.
In the words of St, Paul, who will separate us from the love of God? Anguish? Distress? Famine? The lack of food? Now if you and I do nothing, a lot of things will separate us from the love of God. But we can do something. We can stop wasting food. We can stop our negative thinking about the poor and the hungry. “Poverty is a circumstance, not a value judgment.” (see http://www.loaves-fishes.org/media/blog/)
Jesus leads by example and feeds us at the Eucharist. Here we dine at the table of the Lord and we have our fill. May there always be chicken in our soups. And when we eat our cakes may angels remind us to “give them some food yourselves.”
The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.