Give Them Some Food Yourselves

breadIt is ironic in a sense that one of the greater divides between Catholic and Protestant is over the issue of the Eucharist. Here, Catholics are most literal, taking the “institution of the Eucharist” to be the actual eating of the blood and flesh of Christ, while most Protestants see it as a symbolic act of remembrance.

To be honest, the Protestants are closer to the mark exegetically. While Matthew relates the story of the Last Supper in a “bread = body” fashion, Luke and Paul frame it as a “remembrance”. Quite frankly it should not matter at all, since if we wish to talk about the mystery of Christ’s presence to us as Christians, the how is singularly not important.

What is important is the stage being set. The table was a place where differences were set aside, weapons left at the door, where people were in a sense forced to confront each others as equals–nourishing the body.

The history of table hospitality in the Middle East is well-known. In such a harsh environment, even enemies broke bread together as a means of survival. It was not all equality of course, there were heads of the tables often, and women and children were separated, eating after the men were through. Food was life at its most basic, and Jesus spared no opportunity to connect food and eating with teaching.

When people are chewing, they can listen.

I see the Eucharist as a time when for a few moments my thoughts are utterly aligned with my God. I choose to believe that God comes to me in some precious way through the bread and wine. I do not examine that process for the process doesn’t actually matter. Is this not why we pause, (those of us who do) at the beginning of a meal to silently or otherwise, give praise to God for what we are about to consume?  We have internalized the importance of meal, of table fellowship, even if that fellowship only includes ourselves and the Lord.

When Jesus has been teaching and the disciples urge him to send people away to find something to eat, he teaches an important lesson: give them some food yourselves. In this salient sentence, Jesus draws us together as community, making us each responsible for all, including feeding each other.

For in the feeding of others, we feed ourselves.

When the disciples answer Jesus’ directive, they say what we are wont to say: “Five loaves and two fishes are all we have.

We rebel. We start by turning inward, counting what we have, and finding we don’t have enough to share. We look about as dumb animals. What to do now?

Do with what you have! Amazing things happen when you just start doing, without fretting about how little you have.

Every revolution starts with the desire of one person to take one step in a new direction.

One in five humans is hungry in the world. One in five children in this country doesn’t get enough to eat. Our food banks are stretched to their limits every week. Men and women sit along our roadsides, along our city streets, hungry. Twenty-five percent of our veterans are homeless, living on the streets, unable to work and dependent upon soup kitchens, garbage receptacles, and the largess of passerby’s.

Food is life. All our actions regarding food can be and should be a Eucharistic event for us. The gardening we so love, the shopping and choosing of just the right melon, the careful preparation, presentation, all these are Eucharistic moments. We can treat these times as Holy deliberately and prayerfully, opening our hearts and minds to God’s presence.  Food can continue to teach us.

With each can of soup, we realize that it would feed another. Is it so much to ask that we save aside a few cans a week and once a month deliver them to a pantry? Is it too much to send a monthly check of a few dollars to your local mission or shelter?

And if I may ask you, please, please, when you do such things, hold them in your own heart. Your God knows, and that is all that need know. Only the Pharisees find the need to tell others of their giving. For no matter how much you give, others give more, and others are prevented from giving as much only because they have even less than you claim to have. You shame them, and yourself when you brag of your offerings.

Give them some food yourselves.

Amen.

 

 

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10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tim
    Jun 02, 2013 @ 13:49:44

    Sherry, I read somewhere (can’t remember where) that the reason our churches are constructed as they are–with the long nave leading to the crossing/transepts, backed by an apse and ambulatory–is based on Roman banquet hall architecture, rather than the typical ancient plan for temples, which were modeled on royal courts, where entry to specific areas was based on status, ethnicity, and wealth. Temple rooms got progressively smaller, because fewer people had right of entry to them. But Early Christianity’s Eucharist was first and foremost a people’s feast, where all were welcome, which is why churches first began in Christian homes and then later expanded (to accommodate more guests) in banquet halls. The point was always about making more room to see that more people were fed, both spiritually and physically. And the invocation of Christ’s presence in the bread and wine was essential to instill the sense of Christ’s being central the Church.

    It also bears noting that Early Christians weren’t too crazy about the concept of an “altar”–as that was old-think based on animal sacrifice, which Jesus eliminated on the cross. For them, it was all about the table and this call for hospitality, nourishment, and compassion wasn’t confined to the Eucharistic rite. It was a way of life for Christians, who shared everything in common. Thus, by legacy, we too are called to feed the hungry and welcome the stranger and shelter the homeless–to bring the sacred rite of Eucharist to life in all we do. And you are right. If we honor this calling, we bring the holy to the mundane–not only our dining, but in our employment that provides our food and our habits and attitudes that color how we move and live in this world.

    This is a very profound idea you offer us–one well worth pondering and allowing to seep into the marrow of our beings. In our church’s communion service the last words we hear before the taking the elements come when the liturgist holds up the bread and cup and reminds us, “These are the gifts of God for the people of God.” When we share physical nourishment with those in need–and indeed with one another–we essentially validate this powerful message: “You are God’s child.”

    Thank you for such wealth! It’s always such a blessing to come this way.

    Much love and gratitude,
    Tim

    Reply

  2. Sherry
    Jun 02, 2013 @ 13:59:16

    Thank you for such rich background information. I had never thought about the architecture of the average church. It does make sense doesn’t it? I recall the Episcopal priest saying words similar to: “It is not the church who invites you to the table, but our Lord.” That was a compelling statement to me, and one that I have lived with ever since. This symbolic display that we engage in ritually is so very powerful if we let it be. It can direct our lives in a real way. Thank you for always contributing something meaningful to this discussion. In loving blessing, Sherry

    Reply

  3. Peg Conway
    Jun 02, 2013 @ 14:08:42

    I volunteer regularly at a food pantry, and this post is both affirming and inspiring for that work.

    Reply

  4. Thomas
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 06:22:50

    I used to like to sit up front and watch the faces of people as they received communion. It was easy to tell who was performing the ritual out of habit and who was longing for a deeper connection.

    Reply

    • Sherry
      Jun 03, 2013 @ 08:08:22

      Oh, I have done this too Thomas. I try not to do it often since I suspect it says a thing or two about my own attention as well. But yes, you can tell much about our human frailties by simply watching carefully. Thank you for reminding us of that. !END

      Reply

  5. adamscj99
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 06:54:00

    I respectfully disagree. As a Catholic, the Body and Blood IS the Body and Blood of Christ, so in that respect you are correct. To draw the conclusion that it does not matter at all is ridiculous. The Eucharist gives us the opportunity, in this day and age to be with Christ, present, in the Eucharist, physically in the flesh. Transubstantiation is a corner stone of the faith, and is what most of all makes us a completely different faith from that of the Protestants. To question its authenticity and it actual turning into the Body and Blood of Christ during Mass is to question His Divine Authority and the miracle of the transubstantiation. To be able to become one with Christ through the taking of His most precious body and blood is EVERYTHING to a Catholic and must not be ignored.

    Reply

    • Sherry
      Jun 03, 2013 @ 08:13:32

      I think you misunderstand my words. I do believe that the bread and wine becomes in some way our Lord. Transubstantiation is a construct of the church and of course is a matter of faith, not proof. I disagree that it is a cornerstone of the faith however, because most Protestants have some form of communion as well, and to suggest that if they don’t accept the Catholic dogma regarding it, they some how fail to receive Christ in the same fullness is to my mind exactly what is wrong with religious adherence to a “Church” as such. God comes to us for the asking, and while we may feel a deeper connection when we partake of the bread and wine, all who seek God find him and find him fully I am convinced. Do you think that God discriminates because some believe it is a call to “remember” rather than physically consume the Lord? I would remember that Paul writes in Corinthians much earlier than any of the other writers, and his words might be considered more accurate a representation of what Jesus actually said and meant than later writers who are more and more influenced by trying to support a fledgling church that was rising. Just some things you might consider. !END

      Reply

  6. adamscj99
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 06:59:22

    This is a better explanation than I could give:
    http://www.catholic.com/tracts/christ-in-the-eucharist

    Reply

  7. adamscj99
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 09:17:50

    MK 12:1-12

    Reply

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