By Kathleen Butler
When Hurricane Harvey blew into Houston in 2017, my mother’s house was one of the many that were affected. It was four days after the rain stopped before we were finally able to get back into her house to start the cleanup. It was hot, sweaty, back-breaking and emotionally draining work. Like everyone in our neighborhood, we were spending days hauling furniture to the curb, pulling up carpeting and ripping out drywall and insulation.
There was a community spirit in the middle of it all, a sort of shared misery and sense of uncertainty about the future. Yet there were moments of shared grace where we least expected it. One hot afternoon, two cars pulled up to the ruined house next door and started unloading tables and enormous pans of food. They went door to door inviting anyone who wanted lunch to come outside. There was a buffet of chicken, rice and beans and Gatorade and water.
These were complete strangers; they had no connection to any of us other than the fact they knew we needed lunch. They told me they went to a different street each day and set up lunch for anyone who wanted it—a makeshift picnic assembled in the driveway or on the curb or wherever there was room. Neighbors kept coming, and pans of food kept coming out of the car. It was like a modern-day feeding miracle—all of us, strangers and friends, united around a simple meal given freely out of love.
The Eucharist that we share today is the same—it unites us with Christ and His Church and to one another in sacred and powerful ways. It calls us to the table, and it sends us out into the world to feed others. Perhaps we feed them through an act of compassion, a kind word or the gift of our time or talent in service to the Church.
Christ offers this saving gift to us precisely so that we might share it with joy and gratitude. Every week we hear in the Eucharistic prayer, “This is my body...this is my blood…which is given for you.”
The miracle of feeding the 5,000 appears in all four Gospels. In the gospel of Mark, Jesus tells his disciples, “Give them some food yourselves…” (Mark 6:37) I have to think Jesus already knew what He was going to do and yet, He still asks this of them. In John’s Gospel, Jesus asks his disciples bluntly, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” (John 6:5) Where can we buy enough..? The “we” seems like a key part of this solution.
It may seem overwhelming to be Christ today in the world, but Jesus reminds us that we are not alone in this quest. He is, will be, and always has been part of this work—which is His, after all. We are doing this work, with the help of Jesus, present and real for us in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.▪