I will confess that I do listen to our pastor's sermons, which are usually short, and to the point. And this past Sunday was no exception - well, except that my mind DID wander as he spoke. But my mind wandered onto a topic that was related to the Gospel lesson that morning. The lesson was Matthew 14:13-21, which is the account of Jesus feeding the 5000 (which was really MORE than 5000, since they didn't count women or children - just men. It was a very patriarchal society.)
The Gospel account of this in Matthew shares that Jesus was moved (maybe deeply saddened) at the death of John the Baptist, who was beheaded by Herod the King. After all, John was a cousin, and the one who baptised Jesus in the Jordan River. I am sure that they not only shared a closeness that cousins sometimes share, but a closeness in the spiritual sense as well. But as Jesus is about to retreat to a quiet place where he could reflect, he saw the multitude of people around him. The Gospel says he felt compassion for them, and a few sentences later, he suggested that the disciples feed the people. Of course, the disciples made some comments about how little food they had, and urged that Jesus send everyone to the local village to get food.
But Jesus says that it was not necessary to send the people away, to which the disciples told him that all they had was five loaves of bread, and two fish. And, in one of his greatest miracles, Jesus took that meager fare, and fed well over 5000 people with it. Now, during pastor's sermon, he emphasised the mystical nature of the miracle, the numerology of the 12 baskets that remained indicating the 12 tribes of Israel, how the 5 loaves and the 2 fish equalled the number 7, which is a very powerful "God" number, as in 7 days God created the earth, so on and so on.
But to me, I thought of something different. I thought of the physiology of feeding these people, and how important it was to do so. And I thought of the countless times in the Gospels that Jesus says to feed the poor. And I thought of how both myself and my kids, when we're hungry, we cannot function correctly, or pay attention, or control our behavior, as well as we can when we are not hungry. It was then I realized a vital truth: Jesus commands us to feed the hungry, because God knows that our souls, which hunger and thirst for Him, cannot take the eternal nourishment until we have taken the nourishment of the body. We MUST feed the poor, not just because Jesus told us to, but because unless we do, those to whom need the message of God's Grace will be less receptive, even reject the message, until their body is satisfied. That was a humbling realization. And it was one that I realized is THE MOST IMPORTANT thing I can do as a Follower of Christ. I must feed the poor.
Many times I see those on the street with signs, asking for money since they are homeless and hungry. And in our society, we find that we cannot extend a level of trust to them, simply because we are afraid of them possibly being mentally ill. We don't extend to them the Love that Jesus himself would have us extend. I'll admit, that is tough. And I have driven by those people, feeling guilt for not offering them a meal or shower at our home, simply because we don't know if they are mentally ill or not.
But regardless of that, there are still ways to feed the poor. Our church has an active food pantry, that does give out food to those who ask for it. And Orange County has a large food bank. And you can contribute to these places at whatever level you wish, be it a donation, or volunteering, or both. But I have decided that I will start to feed the poor, beginning with donating to our church's food pantry and the Second Harvest Food Bank, which is on the former El Toro Marine Base in Irvine.
I won't be passing out baskets of fish and bread, but in my heart, I know I will be feeding those who need to be fed with bread before they are fed with the Bread of Life.