Food Enough for All

   Worldwide 821 million people, one-in nine, go to bed hungry every night, and worldwide, one-in-three suffer from some form of malnutrition. In the United States, 37 million people, 11 million children, live in households that struggle to put food on the table. Because of the impact of the coronavirus, it is estimated that 54 million people, 18 million children, will go hungry in the United States in 2020. For so many people, hunger is a daily experience, not a twinge of discomfort or an occasional rumbling stomach caused by a skipped meal or a delayed dinner, but the deep painful sunken-eyed emaciating type of hunger that signals the onset of starvation. [Current data obtained from the U.S. Government sources and Catholic Charities.]

     Yet, Americans spend millions of dollars each year on a variety of products designed to lose weight. We face a twin epidemic of hunger and obesity coexisting within our country! Aside from the exaggerated comments made by many of us who claim to be temporarily ‘starving,” we probably have never experienced real hunger, so we may find it difficult to relate to our gospel story.  

    The story of the loaves and fish was retold six different times within the four gospels and represents the only miracle so often repeated. It is clear that the blessings of food and the need to speak out for vulnerable people who are hungry is not some marginal afterthought or occasional footnote in Scripture. This issue is essential to the identity of those who worship Jesus, based on a heritage of food-sharing reported in various Bible texts. Food-sharing fulfills the best example of God’s providential care for his people where the sharing of food always marked significant religious happenings and signaled Jesus’ love and concern for them. In the Hebrew tradition and in the life of Jesus, God’s presence and teaching were often centered on meal experiences. Today, we continue that tradition as we gather to be fed by the Bread of Life.

    Matthew’s actions portray the ideal follower of Jesus, as evident in today’s Gospel. It was the disciples who noticed the hungry crowd and informed Jesus. It was the disciples who brought the loaves and fish, distributed them to those gathered and collected the leftovers. They were challenged to, “Give them some food yourselves,” and they did. Certainly, this was a challenging request given the vastness of the crowd and the meager collection of food. Their response set an example for others who claim to be followers of Jesus. Based on the tragic statistics listed above, we 21st century disciples are not doing well addressing our current problem of hungry people.

    We can begin addressing this need today by insisting that our own families gather at our table and share food. With the rapid increase in fast-food eateries, it requires real discipleship to resist the temptation to solve our family feeding problems by frequenting such places where speed becomes more important than nourishment or family sharing. Taking a clue from Jesus himself, we gather around our own tables to pray, to eat, and to share our faith. We honor the most ancient of our faith traditions by sharing food together, and we model the powerful examples of our lived-faith with those whom we love. Only when we share food and faith will we be able to better recognize the world’s need for food and our role in solving that need. Loudly and clearly, Jesus is talking to us, “give them some food yourselves!” How will we answer?                 

----Deacon Wilson Shierk