10 June 2007

BREAK YOUR SELF

Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ
Lk 9:11-17

Once, a seminarian was sent to a poor village for an “immersion”. Immediately upon arriving and seeing the wretched condition of the people living in that village, the seminarian whispered to himself, “Kawawa naman” (“How miserable they are”). For his “exposure”, he lived with one of the poor families, eating what the family eats, sleeping where the family sleeps, sharing practically in everything – if there was anything – that the family had. He “tasted” poverty raw and plain. While there, the seminarian ended each day with the thought: kawawa naman sila (“what a pitiful lot they are”). In the course of his stay, one of the children of the family he was living with became so sick but because the family did not have the money to bring their child to the hospital, the child died after a few days. During the wake, the seminarian kept saying, “Kawawa naman” (“How pitiful”). When the period for his “immersion” was over, the leader of the village asked the seminarian what he thinks about their community. The seminarian answered, “Kawawa naman po kayo” (“I pity you”). “Is there anything you can do for us?” asked the leader. “Do?” asked the seminarian. “Do I have to do anything? I thought I was sent here to simply observe,” he said. The leader told the young priest-to-be, “Hijo, kawawa ka naman” (“How I pity you, young man”).

The Twelve saw the hunger of the people in the Gospel today, but they were at a lost how to satisfy it. They themselves were hungry and all they had to stop the churning of their stomachs were five loaves and two fish. They did not even have enough for themselves. Thus, they advised Jesus to send the people away to find lodging and food for themselves. But Jesus thought otherwise: “Give them something to eat yourselves.” Notice that as the Twelve’s solution to the crises was to dismiss the people, Jesus told them to gather the people instead.

When the Twelve brought to Jesus the little they had, Jesus ordered them to make the people sit into groups of fifty. Taking what they gave Him, Jesus raised His eyes to heaven, said the blessing over the donation, divided it, then gave it back to the Twelve for distribution among the hungry crowd. What followed was a miracle: All had eaten as much as they wanted, and there were even twelve baskets filled with leftovers!

The lessons learned by the apostles are still lessons for us today. It is not enough to recognize the needs of our brethren. We must do something about them. Compassion for others is not simply feeling sorry for those who are in need. Compassion should lead us to empathy whereby we experience what others experience. Their hunger becomes our hunger, their pain becomes our pain, their need becomes our need. This empathy should be so strong so as to move us to serve those whom we observe. The suffering of our brethren that rends our hearts into pieces must open our hands and stretch our arms so as to attend to their plight and welcome them among our important concerns.

Running away or sending the people away was not the solution to the problem that confronted Jesus and the Twelve in the Gospel today. Staying, gathering together, and sharing what they had was! The same advice Jesus gives us today. The solutions to the many and varied hungers of others are in us because we ourselves are the solutions. It was not the five loaves and two fish that satisfied the hungry crowd in the Gospel. It was the Twelve themselves – surrendering to Jesus whatever little they had – who fed the hungry crowd. They satisfied the kind of hunger that went beyond craving for food because the crowd was, in the first place, hungry for the word of God. By giving away whatever little they had after Jesus blest it, the Twelve became the best statement of what the word of God says. The word of God invites us to be the same: Be the best example of what we proclaim.

And what do we proclaim? We preach Christ crucified and raised from the dead. We proclaim that He is alive and made Himself food for the life of the world. This is our message. This is our belief. This is our feast.

As we celebrate today the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, we feed on the Lord. But our celebration is only half done if we are the only ones whose hunger is satisfied. After feeding on Him, we must go and feed others with the same Christ by our words and deeds. The more we feed on Him, the more we should become like Him. The more we receive the Eucharist, the more our lives should be Eucharistic. A Eucharistic life is a life that is spent not in observing others but in serving them.

When we receive Jesus in the Eucharist today, let us truly mean what we say when we answer the minister, “Amen.” Let our “amen” signify our readiness to go forth and serve our brothers and sisters even to the point of being “food” for their hunger. The Breaking of Bread, as the Holy Mass was called the early Christian community, flows into the Breaking of Selves.

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