The Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
2016 – Cycle C
Wisdom 11:22-12:2; Psalm 145; 2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2; Luke 19:1-10
Thanksgiving Day is in a month. Tables will be laden with an obscene amount of food. The amount of time spent eating will significantly eclipse the time spent in prayer at the beginning of the meal. And by the completion of the feast we will all feel “stuffed” even to the point of distended stomachs. And how many of us will have a second helping later in the day? Happy Thanksgiving?
Somehow the meaning and the manner in which we celebrate our civil and religious festivals have been turned on their head. Christmas, Christ – Mass, has morphed from marking our salvation from sin in Jesus to participating in the sin of absolute consumerism. Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, as we marked the graves of the women and men who died in military service for our country has been transformed into the beginning of the summer vacation season, the living eclipsing the dead. In regard to Thanksgiving, gratitude can only arise from within a person or community’s heart in which we realize that we were in need and humbly accepted help. Remember Bob Cratchit. Otherwise, can you be grateful if you have nothing to be grateful for? Gratitude is difficult for me because I have always had more than enough of life’s benefits. Have you experienced dire need?
Another aspect of the human experience that Thanksgiving confronts us with is hunger. How many of us have experienced hunger? Now everyone feels hungry on a daily basis. And most of us are able to satisfy this craving and need, if not immediately, we can count on having a meal or snack within hours. This is not the type of hunger I am referring to. People who suffer chronic hunger don’t have the option of eating when they are hungry. They do not get enough calories or essential nutrients. People who are hungry have an ongoing problem with getting food to eat. They have a primary need — how to feed themselves and their children not only today but tomorrow and the day after and the day after that.
The cause of hunger in the world is not a shortage of food but rather the inability to access food. Some people are hungry because food is in short supply in their area. It may be because they can’t afford to buy enough food. Some countries have a “hunger season” every year. It is when the previous harvest is gone and the next harvest is not yet ready. The United States doesn’t have a “hunger season”, but for many families, some weeks are hungrier than others as families run short of food before they have money to buy more. People can’t simply decide to spend less on rent, but if necessary, they can spend less on food.
For many low-wage workers, retirees, people with disabilities, and their families, even careful planning cannot stretch the grocery budget throughout the month. Less expensive — and less nutritious — filler foods can keep children’s stomachs from growling, but they can’t provide what children need to grow and learn. Adults who are missing meals because they can’t afford to buy food can’t concentrate as well at work. The cheaper the food product usually the higher content of sugar, salt, fat and chemicals which add weight and contribute to poor health. Many of us are unhealthily overweight because we eat too much and don’t exercise. For the poor of our nation they are obese because they can only afford processed and less nutritious foods.
Food Stamps are supplementary funds which are supposed to allow people to raise their standard of nutrition, yet have you ever found yourself making judgments of people when you see what they are purchasing with Food Stamps? Why do some people think they have a right to eat better than people who don’t have as much money as they do?
Did it ever occur to you why there are three food pantries and three meal sites in the City of Oneonta? Hunger is prevalent in our country.
When you depart from the Eucharist today, a member of the Peace and Justice Committee will be offering each family a “mini-loaf” of bread to take home. I invite you to graciously accept it and to take time and contemplate the loaf. Would you be satisfied on this much food for the day? Could you daily feed your family on this amount of food? Some loaves are burnt on the bottom; if you are given one of those loaves, do you feel you deserve a better quality loaf? Consider how much food is regularly thrown out by us because it is stale, the fruit has been bruised, or it is just past expiration date. 40% of food produced in the United States is wasted in some way while people are hungry.
- Let the loaf challenge your eating habits.
- How might, your Thanksgiving, Christmas, wedding, and other festive tables, be transformed to acknowledge hunger in the world even as we have a human need to celebrate.
- Consider joining Bread for the World. Bread for the World is an organization of Christian Churches that urge our nation’s decision makers to end hunger at home and abroad.
- Continue and expand your support of our Food Pantry or volunteer at one of the meals sites in the city.
- Pray for and advocate with our legislators and government leaders.
Can we approach and receive the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation in Holy Communion if we do not make a connection with the daily bread that sustains our human bodies and a quality daily bread for health at that?
Human hunger, access to quality food, food security, that is, having a stable and regular means of obtaining food, health and the Holy Eucharist are inseparably bound. Our spiritual life expressed in the Eucharist must be expressed in a tangible care and advocacy for each other.
Now that’s a Happy Thanksgiving!
Check out: Bread for the World – http://www.bread.org