My friends, today as last Sunday; we continue contemplating the “bread of life” whom we know to be our brother, Jesus. We get this truth from both the Old or First Testament of the Bible in the book of Exodus and in the New Testament, in Jesus’ words—Jesus of course brings the message to completion.
Exodus tells us, “This is the bread our God has given you to eat.” In John’s gospel we hear, “You shall not be working for perishable food, but for life-giving food that lasts for all eternity.” John continues, “Jesus is the bread that Abba God gives,” in which, “we will not be hungry or thirsty.”
Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians carves out for us, Jesus’ followers, just what following him will mean, “You must stop living the kind of life the world lives,” or in other words, our life in Jesus calls us to more! It seems to be about living, “in the justice and holiness of the truth.”
The readings for this Sunday call each of us to consider how Jesus was “bread” for his world and of how we are called to the same. Sometimes the “bread” we are called to give is of a purely physical nature—people are physically hungry and must in justice, be fed. For us who are blessed with having enough and to spare of physical bread, the solution might appear simple—share what we have and many of us do. The initiatives through this parish help us to do that; contributing to The Winona Volunteer Services Food Shelf, our monthly meals to Bethany Catholic Worker House and our parish’s yearly commitment of time delivering Home Meals during the month of February.
In Jesus’ life, he started at this level as well to meet people’s basic needs, but it was always about bringing them to the next level—feeding people’s minds, hearts and spirits. People—humans, our sisters and brothers need more than food for their bodies—they need the “bread” of compassion, understanding, justice in their lives—this is the “more” that was at the heart of Jesus’ message. We can’t just stop with feeding people’s physical bodies, important as that is; but we must strive to understand why people are physically hungry, why some have more than enough and to spare and others are left wanting.
In all the times when Jesus fed physically hungry people; he gave in abundance and this was to signify the over-the-top love of his Abba God for all of creation. God’s generosity and faithfulness through Jesus to creation was always meant to show us the way—the goods of this earth are meant for all to enjoy and whatever it is in this world that causes some of us to live well while others suffer must most assuredly be addressed by Jesus’ followers if the full kin-dom is ever to be realized.
Obviously, our world’s people are not, as Paul suggests, living as we should or we would not have people physically starving to death; we would not have countries warring with each other; we would not have half the world’s population still living under the tyranny of patriarchy both in church and state; there would be the justice that allows individuals to live fully and freely the lives that God created and called them to live. Gender, life-style choices, religious beliefs that call individuals to different, yet unique expressions of themselves and their God would not be impediments to hold them down, but gifts to be celebrated from the God of us all—from whom we are all, “so wonderfully made.
Now this is a bit of a depressing picture that I paint, but I see great hope in our world as people are stepping up and forward to do that which is theirs to do—all those who are ministering on our southern border to say that our country stands for more than greed and arrogance, fear and selfishness—that understands people running from war and unspeakable conditions, in their own countries, risking their lives and their children’s lives to come to a land that in the past has always stood for the rights of individuals to know peace, freedom and justice in their lives.
On a local level, several interfaith communities, including our own, have said “yes” to being a part of the Sanctuary Movement here, in the pursuit of a higher law. Every time we reach out friends, moving with our hearts rather than our heads, attempting to do what may not be safe, but what is good and right and just; we are being faithful to our brother, Jesus’ call, as his followers.
You are aware that the 15th season of the Great River Shakespeare festival in Winona finishes today. We had the good fortune on Tuesday night to partake in the yearly production of Callithump as part of the festival. Webster’s defines the word “callithump” as a noisy, boisterous band or parade. The production of Callithump always comes near the end of the season of plays in order that those who have seen the separate plays will better understand the subtle jokes and spoofs presented within it.
I have always experienced this event in the past as a very fun night of the actors letting their hair down, so to speak, after all the fine work of the season and just enjoying each other as they continue to entertain their audience in a less-scripted way.
This year, there was that, but I noticed a concerted effort to uplift the women in the company expressing all their wonderful differences as individuals and most poignantly, in a final tribute to the cause of women expressed this past year in the #MeToo movement. Great River Shakespeare women flanked by all their male counterparts proclaimed their independence, their rightness to be, that, “enough was enough,” and that no matter what anyone had said or done, they were and are, terrific!
My friends, whenever any one of us is not respected, is put down for who and what they were created to be; we are all put down because we fail to be who God created us to be, who Jesus gave his life to protect, the very image of the divine. We are all called not just to see that people receive the physical bread that they need, but the emotional and spiritual bread as well. Amen? Amen!