Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary
July 25, 2021
There is a large billboard on the side of a highway in Minnesota with a picture of a loaf of ordinary white bread. The plastic tag sealing the bread bag has printed on it the simple words we look for in the supermarket, or when we open the refrigerator, or when we pull a can of soup from the back of the pantry:
“BEST IF USED BY…”
The public service announcement is sponsored by SAVETHEFOOD.COM. The message on the sign reads: “Every American wastes 290 pounds of food a year…cook it, store it, share it.”
I believe it!
Living alone, with an unpredictable schedule that frequently needs adjusting because of the “surprises” that are part of ministry (even in retirement), I find myself carting a number of science experiments from the fridge to the curb every week. And, as I am bagging up the wasted food, I hear my mother’s voice from years past, telling me to clean my plate because there are lots of hungry children who would love to have what I was grumbling about.
I believe that as well!
Famine is a worldwide problem. Hunger and undernourishment is a social issue even in this “land of plenty.” So, good old “Catholic guilt” is alive and well when it comes to tossing out spoiled food.
Our Readings remind us that there is enough for everyone, so long as we do not waste…and so long as we are conscious of the need to share.
A less practical and more spiritual interpretation of this week’s Scripture passages serves to reassure us that God ALWAYS does what Jesus did that day when faced with a hungry crowd. Somehow, God responds to humanity’s needs in a manner far beyond our wildest dreams.
The relationship between the miraculous multiplication of loaves and fishes and the Eucharist is fairly evident. But what requires a closer look is the mention of “leftovers.”
When we approach the Communion Table with a pure heart, hungry for The Bread of Life…we are given our fill. Nourished with God’s gift of Grace, we are strengthened in such a way that we are able to face the coming week, and the challenges it might bring, without fear and with hope. And there is “Grace to spare”…leftovers, if you will.
It’s as if this extra Grace, which is beyond our immediate need, is wrapped up within us and entrusted to us to be taken out into the world to share with those who are spiritually malnourished.
There is no expiration date for Grace. Nevertheless, it doesn’t seem that we should simply store it someplace safe for later use. What is “extra” is meant to be shared.
If Catholic guilt has a proper purpose, I should think it would be to sting the conscience of those who let Grace go unused. And, if asked to design a public service billboard to raise awareness, it would read:
CELEBRATE IT…LIVE IT…SHARE IT!
Because that’s what I believe!