In Holy Communion we have Christ under the appearance of bread. In our work we find him under the appearance of flesh and blood. It is the same Christ. — Mother Teresa
This past Saturday’s blog post (entitled a good question) focused on Shane Claiborne’ s question about the dichotomy of worshiping a homeless man on Sunday and ignoring a homeless man on Monday. Shortly after posting that blog I came across this quote from Mother Teresa. Both quotes heavily influenced my Communion message on Sunday morning.
As Christians we believe that when the Communion elements of bread and wine are consecrated they become the body and blood of Christ. We call Communion a Holy Sacrament because we believe it is a divine means of grace. Christ comes to us in the form of bread and wine.
Mother Teresa tells us that as Christ comes to us in the bread and wine on Sunday, He comes to us in the guise of one of the least of these every day during the week.
Every opportunity we have to draw closer to the oppressed, the poor, the hungry, the homeless, those in prison, and those despised by society is then a true means of grace.
And that brings us back to Shane Claiborne’s question: “How can we worship a homeless man on Sunday and ignore him on Monday?”
I often talk about the need for a global movement of people committed to a world without hunger. I continue to talk about it because I truly feel that is what is required to end this unnecessary evil. Thousands of our brothers and sisters die daily from lack of sufficient food when we all know there is enough for all. No one on this perfectly created planet needs to go to bed hungry, much less suffer a lifetime of want and malnutrition.
Good will, compassion and charity are all nice, but none of these are sufficient to end hunger. We will never see an end to hunger until those of us who are not hungry understand the glorious opportunity we have to change the world forever. We have the power to end hunger in our lifetime. We just need to develop the moral will to make it happen.
We need a global movement willing to challenge outdated and immoral systems and philosophies that hold millions in poverty. We need an international force for good that defies the accepted norms of our egocentric and consumer-oriented society. We need a global movement that is willing to stand up and speak out for those too weak and powerless to do it for themselves.
My wife sent me a wonderful quote last night that might just become my new mantra. It is is a perfect starting point for a global movement to end hunger in our lifetime. How do we create a world without hunger? The answer begins here:
“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. It is now time to change the things I cannot accept.”
I do not accept we have to live in a world where 25,000 of my family die every single day from hunger when there is more than enough food for all. I believe it is time to change that. I want a world without hunger. What about you?
Most merciful and gracious Lord, we thank you for another night of safety and rest. We praise you for another glorious day filled with the promise of your presence and power.
We pray today to be more mindful in all we do. We pray today to have more understanding, especially for those in dire circumstances and deep difficulties. Help us to see beyond the superficial. Help us, Creator God, to glimpse the same beauty in those in need for which you allowed your Son to go to the cross.
Allow us to be fully open to your leading. Allow us to be perfectly useful to you in touching those that crave a loving touch, those who shiver with the chill of neglect, and those whose hunger is far deeper than just bread.
Help us this day, o Lord, to have insight in how best to meet the deepest needs of those you place in our path. AMEN.
How can you say you have fulfilled the law and the prophets, when it is written in the law that you should love your neighbor as yourself? Look, many of your brothers, sons of Abraham, are covered with filth and dying of hunger. Meanwhile your own house is filled with goods, and not a thing goes out of it to them. – Origen
Faithfulness is never about what we say we believe. Even the early Church Fathers understood this. Faithfulness is about living out our beliefs in real and tangible ways. Faithfulness is about daily decisions.
Loving our neighbor as ourself means doing whatever is most necessary for his salvation, his shalom. That must start with meeting her need for bread and shelter. Everything else is secondary.
If sometimes our poor people have had to die of starvation, it is not that God didn’t care for them, but because you and I didn’t give, were not an instrument in the hands of God, to give them that bread, to give them that clothing; because we did not recognize him, when once more Christ came in distressing disguise, in the hungry man, in the lonely man, in the homeless child, and seeking for shelter. – Mother Teresa
Jesus is clear that on the day of judgement some will inherit a kingdom while others will be cast into the outer darkness. What sets the two groups apart is how differently they treated those most in need, those in desperate circumstances.
Those inheriting the kingdom are those who reached out in love and compassion to those who were hurting and needed help. Those being cast out will be those who ignored the cries of those in need.
In the end, Jesus tells those who will be inheriting the kingdom that when they showed mercy and demonstrated love to the oppressed, the ugly, the despised, and the lonely, they were actually demonstrating love to Him.
Mother Teresa is right. How often do we hurry by the homeless Christ, refusing to look at him? How often do we ignore the hungry Christ, simply because we don’t recognize him?
Whether people are beautiful or plain, friendly or cruel, ultimately they are human beings, just like oneself. Like oneself, they want happiness and do not want suffering. Furthermore, their right to overcome suffering and be happy is equal to one’s own. Now, when you recognize that…you automatically feel empathy and closeness for them. Through accustoming your mind to this sense of universal altruism, you develop a feeling of responsibility for others: the wish to help them actively overcome their problems. This wish is not selective; it applies equally to all. – the Dalai Lama
Ending hunger in our lifetime is possible. We all know it is the right thing to do. My prayer is that we recognize that we are all human beings, we are all one family, and we all have a right to life in all its fullness. Once we recognize that, the feeling of responsibility will lead us to do whatever is necessary to make sure each of us has bread.
Sometime in your life, hope that you might see one starved man, the look on his face when the bread finally arrives. Hope that you might have baked it or brought it or even kneaded it yourself. For that look on his face, for your meeting his eyes across a piece of bread, you might be willing to lose a lot, or suffer a lot, or die a little, even. – Daniel Berrigan
Looking into the eyes of the hungry is terrifying. Looking into the eyes of a starving person receiving food will change your life forever. Not many of us have such privilege. But we all have the opportunity to make sure the bread arrives.
This is World Hunger Action Month. Take time this month to help make sure the bread finally arrives. Working together we can end the obscenity of hunger in our lifetime.
O God, just as the disciples heard Christ’s words of promise and began to eat the bread and drink the wine in the suffering of a long remembrance and in the joy of a hope, grant that we may hear your word, spoken in each thing of everyday affairs:
Coffee, on our table in the morning; the simple gesture of opening a door to go out, free; the shouts of children in the parks; a familiar song, sung by an unfamiliar voice; a friendly tree that has not yet been cut down.
May simple things speak to us of your mercy, and tell us that life can be good. And may these sacramental gifts make us remember those who do not receive them:
who have their lives cut every day, in the bread absent from the table; in the door of the hospital, the prison, the welfare home that does not open; in sad children, feet without shoes, eyes without hope; in war hymns that glorify death; in deserts where once there was life;
Christ was also sacrificed; and may we learn that we participate in the saving sacrifice of Christ when we participate in the suffering of his little ones. Amen.
A prayer by Rubem Alves from Brazil (taken from the The United Methodist Hymnal).