“Thus says the Lord: Share your bread with the hungry!”
These are words delivered by the prophet Isaiah at the start of our first reading today: Share your bread with the hungry!
This is a direct command from the Lord. It’s not a suggestion. It’s not a nice idea. It’s a clear imperative:
Share your bread.
Share what’s yours with those who are most in need!
One time, I heard a Catholic speaker say it even more clearly: “If we don’t feed the poor, we WILL go to hell.”
But I’d like to zoom into this little phrase: “Share your bread with the hungry” and meditate on it more deeply.
Because on the one hand, there’s a super practical, obvious interpretation of this verse: We ought to provide resources to the needy. Those who are physically hungry and in need are OUR responsibility. We, in fact, are our brother’s keeper!
But anytime the word “bread” pops up in Holy Scripture, my ears perk up — and I immediately connect it back to the Holy Eucharist.
So what if we read this verse through a Eucharistic lens as well? “Share your bread with the hungry!”
Share Jesus, the Bread of Life, with those who are hungry.
This world is starving not just for physical food, not just for physical shelter — this world is starving for Christ.
So the Lord tells His Church… “Share your bread!”
Sometimes we try to separate these two things, don’t we? We’ve got our worship stuff over here — liturgy, Mass, the Sacraments, the Eucharist, prayer, rosary beads — and then we’ve got our social justice stuff over here — soup kitchens, homeless shelters, food pantries, etc…
We can sort of divide those two things in our head for some reason, but I just want to make it very very clear:
The two cannot be separated in reality!
You can’t really love the Mass without also actively loving the poor.
And you can’t really love the poor without also actively loving the Mass.
The two go together… hand-in-hand.
As you may have heard by now, the US bishops are gearing up for what they’re calling a “Eucharistic Revival” — This will be a chance for us all to deepen our love for and our understanding of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament.
But it should be made clear from the outset, that any revival of our love for Jesus in the Eucharist must simultaneously be a revival of our love for Jesus in the poor who are right in our backyard.
We need to consciously connect these two realities — the Holy Eucharist and care for the poor — We need to unite spiritual and social health.
We claim to see Christ in the Eucharist on the altar — we profess to see Him in what looks for all the world like ordinary bread and wine:
But can we see Christ in the poor?
Dorothy Day, who always did have a blunt way with words, once said this: “Those who cannot see Christ in the poor are atheists indeed.”
Wow. Sounds kinda harsh — But this is a very old idea actually. The Church has always held these two things intimately together: The Eucharistic liturgy and direct service to the poor. They flow out from and back to one another.
St. John Chrysostom, preaching to Constantinople in the late 300’s AD, exhorted his people with these incredibly convicting words:
“You honor this altar because it receives Christ’s body [at the Eucharist]. But the poor man, who is himself the body of Christ, you treat with scorn, and when perishing, neglect.”
Chrysostom went on to say that every single poor person is like another altar — a holy place where we must offer up our sacrifices of love and service to God!
So, we should constantly be asking ourselves — Do I love the Body of Christ at Mass more than I love the Body of Christ in the street?
If so, we need to examine our souls and ask for conversion!
But we must also ask ourselves the opposite question: “Am I trying to love the poor without giving due reverence and devotion to the Most Holy Eucharist?”
Because this opposite temptation is very real as well!
We can sometimes focus so much on serving the poor… we can exert so much of our energy toward social justice… that we start to devalue or dismiss the centrality of the Holy Eucharist — of the Sacrifice of the Mass as the Source and Summit of the entire Christian life!
When that happens — then we can start to think of the Church as another big worldly organization that offers people social assistance and makes the world “a better place…”
This is not enough! Our mission is BIGGER! And the hunger that surrounds us is so much DEEPER…
But we can become so fixated on an imaginary, utopian future in which we’ve successfully eradicated all poverty and all injustice by our own natural, human efforts, that we forget the Lord of supernatural love!
Msgr. James Shea warns us that: Without proper religion — without a supernatural outlook — a sincere, humble love for the poor can quickly become hatred for poverty, care for the sick can turn into hatred of disease, and concern for the elderly can devolve into disgust for the effects of aging. And as it has been the case with dictatorships time and time again, “the solution becomes eradicate the poor, eliminate the diseased, and euthanize the aged.”
What’s the solution? How do we avoid these extremes?
We make the Eucharist the heart of everything.
Before stepping out onto the poorest, dirtiest streets of Calcutta, Mother Teresa and her sisters would first spend hours in silent adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in their chapel.
Why? Weren’t they wasting time? Shouldn’t they have been getting to work helping the poor??? Isn’t that SELFISH of them!!?!?
No… they committed themselves to this time with Jesus in the Eucharist because it slowly trained their eyes to be able to see Christ — both in the Monstrance AND in the Poor. There was no disconnect for them. It all flowed together.
And when they DID emerge from that chapel, they could then truly and fully answer God’s call on their life:
“Share your bread!”
Share the life of Jesus you just meditated upon. Share His presence. Share His love. And yes… share physical bread as well. Share medicine. Share bandages and ointment. Share water.
But most of all, share of yourself from the heart. Because Jesus has transformed you into Himself. … Into His Heart!
Jesus tells us in the Gospel today:
“You are the salt of the earth!” “You are the light of the world!”
Simply put, Christians are supposed to serve the poor differently than anyone else does! We eat and drink the Eucharist, and then we BECOME the Eucharist. We have the ability to season the whole community with the taste of our Eucharistic, Risen Lord.
Nobody else can do that. Nobody else can share bread like that!
So what do we do? How can all of this become concrete for us? — It needs to be real, or else this is just a bunch of nice inspirational… but empty words.
We heard Saint Paul warning against that in our second reading right? He said that he did not come “with persuasive words of wisdom” but “with a demonstration of Spirit and power!”
Paul didn’t come with nice, pretty, inspirational words! He came with the power of God — living and tangible!
So we can’t just talk about loving the poor. It needs to become practical.
Now thankfully, we have a really beautiful way of entering into such concrete action right here in our backyard at the Williamsburg House of Mercy. One initiative they are doing that was brought to my attention recently is what they call “To Go Bags.” These bags are quick and easy to deliver and are meant to hold folks over until they can come back for more meals and other services through the House of Mercy. This initiative is aimed at building trusting relationship with people, and it can be a great way for us to quite literally and concretely “share our bread” right here in Williamsburg.
I encourage you guys to do some research, and most of all — pray — and see how the Lord might be prompting you to share your bread through this ministry and so many other wonderful outreach opportunities in our area.
But above all else, I pray that it all flows from here — right here at the altar. Receive the Bread of Life first, visit Him in the silence of the Tabernacle FIRST… Come to love Christ here, and then go love Him in the poor. Remember that because you are in Christ and Christ is in you, you ARE the salt! You ARE the light.
So “share your bread.” — This world is starving for Him!