The Scriptures for this week assure us that God loves us and will meet our needs on all levels of being. Wow!
These are some of the most beautiful and meaningful messages in all of the Scriptures. We can take these Scriptures on two levels: with literal meaning, that is, God will indeed provide food and sustenance for the poor and hungry, and on the metaphoric level. God’s word is the living water and the bread of life. The teachings of Christ are the food that fills us with what we need to want no more. God’s words from the prophet Isaiah(55:1-3) to the Psalmists refrain( Psalm 145) “The hand of our God feeds us; God answers all our needs”; to the Epistle (Romans 8:35-39) and the Gospel (Matt 14:13-21) fill us with knowledge of a God who is mindful of our every human need, and responds accordingly whether our needs are for basic survival or for connection to God and peace in our spirits. Yet it is Jesus’ words in the Gospel (Matthew 14:16b) that teach us that God meets our human needs through the care we have for one another: “You give them something to eat!”.
It is of no use to those who are poor and in need of assistance to eat, and have clothing and shelter to say “God bless you” or “enjoy God’s word” and do nothing. Our Good Shepherd ministry in Fort Myers, Florida, like most of the Ecclesia Street Ministries throughout the USA and elsewhere and many churches who care for the poor and low income, is a literal feeding ministry. Every time we have church and break open the word, we also break open our storehouses and cook and serve nutritious meals, wholesome drinks and food to take away if it is needed. We take literally the words of Isaiah 55:1-3 “You who have no money, come, buy and eat; Come… without paying and without cost….”Our faith-filled volunteers make this meal possible. And these include those with considerable means and those are those who were poor and homeless and now have the means to help others.
Roger was the first man we helped as we reached out to the homeless in 2007. When he comes to church now he brings an envelope upon which he has printed “Roger’s Foundation” and in it is ten -twenty dollars to share with someone else as we see fit. He also chooses people in his residential community to share with on a regular basis. He gets the meaning of today’s Scriptures. Lauretta lugs a heavy back pack full of produce from neighboring trees and farms on the bus to share with others. She gets it. Lauretta, Linda and others reach out and bring people to our church. Because Lauretta brought Diane, Diane, who was homeless in the park, now has a home.
Linda brings her own kids, her sister’s kids and a young Haitian teen who is sometimes ridiculed by other kids simply because he is Haitian. She sets the example, she goes and gets him and he is welcomed by all. He is one of our happiest teenagers now. Linda gets it.
After the meal we open our pantries and offer food to take home and also clothing and personal items at no cost. After the meal we say “the store is open” and people go to the room where they shop for no money. People also see us for counseling and referral and prayer during that time. They also love sitting in the living room and socializing. So that which is not tangible is also given away freely. Our worship and study of the Scriptures is enthusiastically attended so the teachings that fill the inner spirit and soul are also available to those who want them. We say that in our church we have many preachers. I do a shorter version of the sermon matched to their needs on Sundays. Then I stop and ask for “their word upon the word”. Two or three may expound on the Scriptures and share their own experiences of God. The meal becomes a feast.
Were the disciples guarding the purse strings when they tried to send the people away “to buy their own food”? Or were they just short of faith, feeling that they truly did not have enough to give? Did Jesus literally multiply their little food or did the people sit down and open up their own supplies and share with one another? I can accept it either way or both ways. Either way it was a miracle. The Aramaic culture that Jesus came from may sometimes teach by metaphor and exaggeration. So was it really 5,000 families-or 500- or 50? It doesn’t matter because it means a LOT of families were fed and ALL present ate their fill. And, it was Jesus, the Christ, making that happen with the help of the disciples.
Let us remember that this whole section of Scripture is prefaced by Jesus withdrawing in grief over the loss of his cousin, John the Baptist and yet, not able to get away, he was still loving the crowd, with his heart being being moved by them to heal them and now to feed them (Matt 14:13-14). So does it mean that they ate a good lunch and were full, or they ate of the bread of life, the word of God, the teachings of Christ, the love of Christ, and were full? I think it is clear that it means both-we are to “feed them” ourselves, we are to feed one another. When food is needed we provide food. When material help is needed we provide it-no strings attached. When we have two coats, we share one. When Christ’s teachings are needed, we teach them. They are always needed and we can only teach them when we live them. Live what? Live love even when we are tired and want or need to get away. And live justice and celebrate the love God has for ALL of God’s creatures.
And finally, Romans 8: 35 asks: “What will separate us from the love of Christ” and verse 39 concludes NOTHING “will be able to separate us from the love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus”. For us as women priests that the Roman Church hierarchy thinks it can cut off from Christ, or for the divorced, those civilly married, the LGBTQ community and all who may be deemed or may therefore feel less than worthy, these Scriptures provide the healing balm of Christ. Nothing and no one can cut us off from the love of God in Christ. And, my dear friends, no one can cut you off either so let us eat and be full of the love of God. Thanks be to God!
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community of Fort Myers, Florida
There is nothing like a dip in cool water on a hot day. Our last two outings, on 7/24 and 8/1/2014 were to the water. We have some great water parks in the greater Fort Myers area, like Sunsplash where ten of our young people aged 7-22, spent the day floating in tubes and sliding through huge tubes into the water last Thursday, July 24th.
And, learning about the other creatures who live in the water, in Tarpon Bay and in the Gulf of Mexico off of Sanibel Island makes for a thoroughly exciting day.
Keeron, Jerry,Marcella, Aleigha and Gaspare at Touch Tank
Today, August 1,2014, thirteen of our young people, from ages 7-26 and two parents and Good Shepherd’s two Pastors, Judy Beaumont and Judy Lee went to Tarpon Bay Preserve in Sanibel. First they attended a literal hands- on session where the young docent and guide taught us about oysters and shrimp, hermit crabs,horseshoe crabs and a variety of mollusks. The kids were able to gently lift these up and interact with them. The awe and joy this produced no matter what age they were, was a moment with Creator God and we reflected on that.
Jakeriya, Keeondra, Jolinda, Jakein, Keion and Paarents, Linda and Debbie watch the crabs and shrimp
Marcella, Gaspare, Aleigha, Efe, Joelle, Keeondra, Keeron and Natasha
A Hermit Crab Emerging
Then we took a boat ride in the bay where we spotted manatees and dolphins. This pontoon boat ride was the first boat ride most of the kids ever had. They loved it. They saw pelican roosts and beautiful birds. Their eyes were glued to the water waiting to see dolphin and manatees. Keion, age 12, had the greatest widsom: “have patience” ,he said, “they are here and they will show themselves if you are patient!” And he was right. Who would have ever thought Keion would know this and guide us in this way. Keeron knew that Manatee were called sea cows and Natasha spotted the first dolphins. Jolinda wanted to see more than the big dorsal fin and back but we were happy to know they were circling us.
Debbie and her daughter Joelle and Jolinda and Keeondra
After our time on the water in the boat we drove about ten minutes to the beach and several of the kids loved swimming in the gulf. The others looked for shells and waded in the water with Pastor Judy Lee. We were all happy with out day at the sea. Our adventure ended at McDonalds where we began to plan our next trip. Stay tuned for that one!
For Pastor Judy Beaumont and I this was a wonderful way to spend our 25th Anniversary-with our children at the sea! Thanks be to God!
Pastor Judy Lee,RCWP
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community of Fort Myers,Florida