The readings present two types of hunger, God’s concern for both, and two types of bread for response. The message I have today is that the Body of Christ, we the Church, are called to do the same, respond to both types of hunger with both types of bread.
Because of the state of our city, nation, and world I am compelled to speak on Immigration, so I want to explore the message of the readings within the context of Immigration and through my experience in a place called Oaxaca Mexico where I met so many people who, perhaps like people you may have met, seemingly have nothing and yet would give their last piece of food to you without a second thought. For these people scarcity may be their lived experience, but abundance is clearly their way of being within that experience.
In the Sierra Norte, the mountains of Oaxaca, a man whose strong hands spoke of a life time of hard work, spent the evening sharing stories with me, a stranger, and out of a recycled plastic bottle we passed his homemade mezcal back and forth across the table.
He, Never wanting or excepting anything in return.
I think about how he has been asked to pay for a boarder wall
Women whose hands were just as strong as that man’s, brought us plate after plate of frijoles, avocado, tortillas and nopales (cactus) that she cut down in the back yard with a machete and cooked in a small dark house with no electricity.
Never wanting or excepting anything in return.
I think of how we grumble about immigrants collecting food stamps
When Sylvia got sick, women she did not know took their daughters out to the hill side for an hour in search of herbs to make a tea that made Sylvia feel better.
Never wanting or excepting anything in return
I think of the talking head on the news who uses health care cost to justifies sending people back to places of extreme violence.
The trip was 2010. I’ve come to realize that why these encounters were so profound to me is because those whom I met in Oaxaca share with me the little that they had, and they shared with me that which they were! And who they were, were people who clearly had been nourished from a infinite, unlimited source. And so, 8 years later I am still nourished by these encounters with them.
The contrast of mentalities between those of the poorest state in Mexico and those of the richest country in the world are stark.
Jesus tells us today to work for
“food that endures for eternal life”
And goes on to say
“"I am the bread of life whoever comes to me will never hunger”
You see, when we choose to come to it (and it is a choice), to come and eat of the infinite, unlimited Christ. We choose, as Paul says, to turn away from that self, of hardened hearts, of me first, my group first, “America First” comes to mind. This “old self” as Paul calls it is the self of divisions, titles, labels, false identities, group identities. But free from the old self, we can turn toward the Christ self which is the true self. This self exist in a state of careless abundance. Only the Christ self is courageous enough to hold the gift of faith. And only faith allows us to live within the mystery that Paul speaks of, this mystery that there is enough for everyone and everyone is called and welcomed. Within this Mystery each is found giving what they have and who they are.
Brothers and Sisters what I am saying is that we must step away from our illusions of differences, there is no male or female, there is no Greek or Jew, no slave or free, no legal/not legal, no immigrant or native born (Galatians 3:28). These illusions only serve to keep us in a lie of scarcity.
The truth is that we are ONE. One body, many many gifts, and we are commanded to give that which we have received so as to enter into intimate encounter, intimate relationship, intimate accompaniment, with others, with the other, with each other. These are the spaces where we receive and are filled and looking back after a life time we can say with certainty “It fed me this whole time”
I am becoming more certain that how we do anything is how we do everything. I say this because I want to be clear that when we come to it, when we truly come to it, the giving of ourselves isn’t something we will do, just, for some, isn’t something we will do “when we have time”. No, when we come to it, we, like those I encountered in Oaxaca, will allow ourselves to be given for all in each moment and in each encounter.
Now that is when we come to it! haha Until we get there, or in order to get there, the goal of feeding others kept as a central concern can become a beacon of discernment helping us at each step along the way.
As groups of people gather to fight in the streets of Portland today over how we are treating immigrants. I want us to explore the issue within our faith and through the question of feeding. Not so we can judge eachother but so that we can grow in faith together. In these next 5 situations I want you to be honest with yourself about your response.
Today, as we approach the table where “the mystery of…unity and peace is solemnly consecrated”(Augustine, 272) and we feast on the bread of Life together Let us be what we see and receive what we are(Augustine, 272). Life for the world, no divisions, no separation. One bread, called to feed the all.