Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Where's the bread?

Refugee Holy Familyby Angel Valdez
The readings for today could not be more apropos for so grand a Saint as Saint John Neumann.  To be a Saint means to have embodied what it is to live the Christian life faithfully and in imitation of Christ.  This Saint did so in a powerful way that should inspire each of us to live more fully the calling we have received and taken up in our Baptism.  We are indeed the body of Christ.  We should be reaching out to the poor, the down trodden, the alien, the refugee. Have we forgotten that in our affluent society?  Mayhaps even all of us are taken with a bit of this 'afluenza' that is so conveniently tossed around as a medical condition these days?

In the first reading we see this powerful line: Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.   How poetic and difficult this one line is to hear.  Jesus challenged us to love not just our friends, not just our family, not just those who are good to us.. but even those who are our enemies, those we cannot stand, those who turn our stomach into a wrestling ring for our dinner.  Yet, if we do not know love.. we do not know God. 

Then we see an image of Christ's love in the Gospel, the feeding of five thousand.  Christ asks his disciples to give them food to eat, and they remind of that old Wendy's commercial, "Where's the beef?"  “Are we to buy two hundred days’ wages worth of food and give it to them to eat?”  "Where are we gonna get that kind of bread Master?"  Here they are with God himself and still haven't figured it out.  Jesus, the Word, has already equipped them with everything they need to feed this crowd.   They've seen him cast out demons, heal the sick, bring the dead to life, calm the storms.  He has proven himself the master of all, from the body to nature itself.  Then he says something as simple as 'feed my flock' and they wonder how it can be done.  Jesus of course already knew the answer, and his command over the very laws of nature itself is demonstrated for the glory of God in the multiplication of loaves... taking what would normally only feed a few souls and feeding thousands with more left over than that which he started with.

When Saint John Neumann came to America to be ordained a priest, the church he was assigned over had no steeple or floor.   That did not deter him.  Even though his Parish stretched across an amazing distance, from Western New York to Lake Ontario, he travelled on foot to visit the coal miners, the sick, the immigrant.  When he found that a great deal of his congregation spoke Gaelic, and remember this is a time of severe persecution for the Irish immigrant, he learned the language himself that he might hear their confessions.  He who had been given the Bread of Life, took it directly to the people, celebrating Mass with them even at times on their own kitchen tables.

That's what you and I are called to do, in the means of our own vocations.  You see, love is not love without another.  One can say they love themselves, but that is truly ego.  Love is love when it is given.  That is why we believe God to be a trinity... because God is love.  Yet, even though the Father and the Son loved one another, so much so that it became another person, that love was not held on to for just themselves.   No, it poured out.. it overflowed... it came out into the universe, creating and building... for us.  A love that to this day calls out to us and seeks us, asking us to become one with it.  God sent his only-begotten Son into the world so that we might have life through him.  God wants us to be partakers of his divine essence, to live for eternity with Him, to become like Him.   We have received that promise thorugh Baptism, been strengthened through Confirmation, and renew our covenant and relationship with him through the Sacraments.   That's not all though. It doesn't end there.

Jesus said, “Give them some food yourselves.”   He multiplied the bread, but he expected the Disciples to provide it.  He multiplies our love, but he expects us to provide it.   Just like Saint John, we must journey out into the world and start providing the bread.   We must reach out with what we have been given, and share it with those who do not have it.  This is on both a physical and spiritual level.  We not only need to share the Word, reaching out to those who do not know Christ, and inviting them into a relationship with him; but we also have to share those blessings we have been given with the world. 

It's so easy to forget that there are those out there who do not have.  In a time of celebration, in a time that is often excessive and gluttonous, there is often a feeling of comfort and joy; and there should be.  We cannot forget the people who have no such comfort.  Christmas of all times is a reminder of refugees, of people fleeing a repressive regime, of a man and woman with a new born child, who are journeying into a country not their own.  Have we forgotten them?  We must ask ourselves, are we looking for the Holy Family?  Do we continue to seek Christ as he seeks a safe place to live?  Remember, at the end of time we will not be judged on degrees, certificates, or eloquence of speech, for not even Moses had that.  What we will be judged on is: when I was naked, did you cloth me?  When I was hungry did you feed me?  When I was thirsty did you give me drink?  When I was in prison did you visit me?

At the end of Mass we are given a sending, a message from the Church to it's body... It is not a time to go home and go back to a normal worldly life.  It is a calling from Christ to go forth, and glorify God with your life.  It is a calling for you to reach out to the alien, the widow and the orfan.  It is Christ saying, "Give them some food yourselves."   He will take your meager offering and turn it into a feast worthy of a King.

His servant and yours,

"He must increase, I must decrease."