Feeding Multitudes: How Are We Doing With That?

In the Fourth Century a nun from the west coast of Europe by the name of Egeria undertook a three-year pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  For three years she traveled around Palestine, observing the customs and practices of the Christian Church and reflecting on the life and teachings of Jesus as she experienced the land where they took place.  She kept a journal of her pilgrimage unknown until its discovery 1500 years later.  That journal, now considered the earliest formal writing by a Western European woman, is much more than a tourist’s diary.  Egeria was one of the first Christians to try to understand the events of Scripture within the context of their actual setting.  I thought of Egeria this past Sunday as we heard the Gospel account of the Feeding of the Multitudes.  In her journey, Egeria refers to a “place not far from Capernaum, facing the Sea of Galilee” where she found “a well-watered land in which lush grasses grow with numerous trees and palms.  Nearby are seven springs that provide abundant water.  In this fruitful garden, Jesus fed 5000 people with five loaves and two fish.”  Unlike the bleak site of Jesus’ own hunger in the wilderness, Egeria found on this Galilean hillside a rich and fertile land through which, through Christ, the fullness of God’s gracious gifts come to life.  For her, in that setting, the feeding of this vast crowd is a profoundly satisfying and joyous experience of the overflowing bounty and lavish grace of the Lord.

In recent days, the articles that have filled our computer screens, airwaves, and print media have been about quite the opposite phenomenon.  The “Debt Ceiling Crisis” in Washington has been all about fear and scarcity.  The underlying message has been that there is not enough to go around.  What this has prompted has been the mad, impulsive rush for people to get everything they can before the supply dries up.  It’s been about winners and losers and, at times, like blatant incitement to greed.  There has been talk about entitlements, but how that is expressed usually depends upon whether the person using the term needs them or not.  And there has been talk about sacrifice, usually intended to refer to what those on the “other side” must do.  In all the discussion, negotiation, and maneuvering, however, I don’t think I once heard the word justice.  And I certainly didn’t hear anything about other terms that I would hope would be in the forefront of the leaders of this nation—words like mercy and compassion.  As we come out of this phase of the process and seem to be “spared” for now, it seems to me that we have all lost something very important and vital to us as a people.

God’s intention is that all should find and enjoy the God’s bounty.  We are all meant to partake of and share the richness of God’s creation.  There is enough for all in abundance.  We were also designed to love as God loves us and for that love to shape our character, our response, and our duty to the world.  It does not, in some ways, come as a surprise that, once again, we have failed to carry out God’s intentions and will.  But every time that happens, it diminishes us as persons and takes a large bite out of our very humanity.

I’m not writing this as a political or economic blog.  We’ve got enough of those.  But I write these words in the hope that, even in this disturbing hour, we might think about our life purpose, both as individuals and as a community of millions, and ask how we might do better, much better, than we have been doing of late.

This entry was posted in The Rev. Canon John E. Lawrence and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Feeding Multitudes: How Are We Doing With That?

  1. Noell Sottile says:

    Amen. Amen. Amen!

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