Grace to you!
I share a testimony of generosity. I use it to point to the great lesson in Matthew 14:16 when the Lord charged the disciples to provide food for the hungry. In the previous reflection, I expanded on the teaching of this passage. Here, the focus is on a specific service to the poor.
A couple of days ago, one of my priest friends, a pastor in a rural parish in Nigeria, shared a heart-warming testimony. It is about a family with little or no income who are living in a dilapidated shelter.
For years, he has visited that family to bring them food and support them in prayer. They are utterly poor. And by being poor, I mean something that many here in the United States may not truly grasp.
There are levels of poverty. We have our homeless. Also, are those who are out of a job for many months or even years. These are poor. Yet, at least here in the United States, many of them know where to get some food each week. Many receive government checks to cover their unemployment. Organizations such as Catholic Charities have big budgets also; and, they provide food and clothing, plus numerous soup kitchens by faith-based and other non-profit organizations. Poverty here in the USA is a little more different from the one about which I am writing.
I speak of the kind of poverty where you do not have food and water, nowhere to go, and no person to whom to talk about your starvation. Your neighbor is starving, and your church is simply as poor. Many in impoverished areas of the world live in such levels of poverty. There is no government handout or checks. Catholic Charities and other faith-based organizations that bring food and water supply and clothing are simply overwhelmed. You can’t measure the depth of the lack and the pains of the people. Such is the situation, the kind of poverty about which I'm talking.
From time to time, in some ways, we have tried to help. No matter how much we try, the needs are simply out of control. It must not be like that, but that is what some people have been made to suffer. Such was the case with this family whom the rural priest was poised to help. He had spent lots of money helping other similar situations of need. But this one family has remained one of his pains because he couldn’t do much.
Months passed. Then, an opportunity to bless them came. One of his friends was celebrating his birthday. He asked the priest that God has put in his heart a desire to make a family smile as his birthday gift. This priest told him he had a name.
He provided the name of the wretched family. They need a roof. The friend gave the money. The roof could not stand in the dilapidated home. So, he tore down the little hut and built them a small house from scratch. He supplied food and some money too.
For the family, God had visited them at the right time. It was when they felt there was no more hope. For the priest, God had given him the grace to give them something to eat. He has become and has continued to be God’s hand to provide for the poor and the needy.
Not everyone receives such divine intervention, or holy consolation, as Saint Ignatius of Loyola will call those moments of spiritual satisfaction. Nonetheless, for anyone who listens to the whispers of the Lord and lives the life of Christ, one realizes the Gospel's imperative to serve the needy. It is to preach words and take concrete actions to help the needy around us. It is not only to depend on others to donate but to make our own donations too.
The miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, no doubt, has deeper spiritual meaning. It is a pointer to the grace of the Eucharist. Yet, it also has some practical invitation from the Lord who doesn't just talk but shows us how to live. The second lesson is to provide food, clothing and drink to those much poorer as much as we can, depending on our resources. We are inspired to become God’s agents of change wherever we are.
I will leave us with some soul-searching question. When was the last time we helped someone poorer and more in need than ourselves? When was the last time I gave food to the hungry and clothing to the naked? When was the last time I was an agent of change in my community?
Saint Paul admonishes. As we “excel in faith, in utterance, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and your love for us," may we also excel in the gracious work of charity to the needy (2 Cor 8:7).
I pray for more investments in charity work to the needy, not just in our family or community, but beyond to where we do not have anyone to sing our praises. Amen.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Monday Week 18: Jeremiah 28:1-17; Matthew 14:13-21]
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.