Guacamole costs extra
June 23, 2019
By Br. Robert Wotypka, OFM Cap
I lean on Pope Francis’s insight – and let it guide all ministry – that realities are greater than ideas, from Evangelii Gaudium. Jesus knows this and he shows it to his apostles in the Gospel today, on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. The plan, the idea for looking after the five thousand, is to have the people fend for themselves in the nearby farms and villages? It is a terrible plan. The reality? The reality is that the ministers have fishes and loaves. “Give them some food yourselves” (Luke 9:13), Jesus tells them. And he takes it from there.
The reality is that we ourselves are not without resources. And the reality is that people are hungry, that is the starting point. Let them fed for themselves, we are not responsible for them – that is an idea. And that idea has no saving power. And Jesus came to save. So he orders the ministry of feeding, and this ordering results in all being fed, with plenty left over.
What about the instruction to have the people arrange themselves in groups of fifty (v. 16)? This wisdom addresses a human and organizational problem which, if left unaddressed, typically means nothing will bear fruit that will last. Jesus’ direction to organize the crowds addressing this challenging paradox: that if everyone is responsible, then no one is responsible. I am hearing this more and more in national conversations. So Jesus’ organizing the crowd into groups of fifty means that now the people are no longer strangers. It means that now there will be relationships, neighborliness, a calling forth and a handing on of gifts. And this is where people can flourish, where there is mercy, generosity, and hospitality. In these places, even if they are deserted or little resourced, people can flourish. In the absence of these virtues, only the privileged will prosper.
To what shall I compare a life of privilege in contemporary culture? It is as if a person went to a Mexican restaurant, it matters not which one, for in a life of privilege the entire world is a Mexican restaurant. Meaning? Meaning this – in my life of privilege (and no, this is not purely hypothetical) when I arrive at a Mexican restaurant I am warmly greeted (“Buenos dias” or “Buenos noches”), I am led to a table, and as soon as I am seated someone brings me chips and salsa. I don’t have to ask for it, I don’t have to pay for it, I don’t even have to prove I can pay for it. By virtue of the fact that I am present, I am welcomed and I am served. For me and for those living with privilege, the whole world is a Mexican restaurant.
To what shall I compare a life without privilege, what is it like? In a life without privilege, the whole world is a fast food restaurant. It is thus: when I arrive in a fast food restaurant, I usually cannot see the food, and there is a barrier between me and what I came for, what I need. What else? Well, then I have to tell the staff exactly what I want. And? And then I cannot receive what I want until I pay for it, until I have demonstrated that I deserve to have what I need. Many times I am not greeted hospitably, no, many times and in many places I am greeted with “Next.” I make my needs known, I pay – and then I receive what I came for. After this, I can stay or I can leave, it matters not to my host. This perhaps is what it’s like living in this world without privilege.
Today’s Gospel begins, “Jesus spoke to the crowds about the kingdom of God.” To what shall we compare the kingdom of God? Is it like a Mexican restaurant? Or is it more like a fast food restaurant? And to what shall we compare the Church – is it like a Mexican restaurant, or is it like a fast food joint? How must we live as Church in order to better make present the kingdom of God? And how must we order our ministries? I have my thoughts. I hope to learn yours.
Has all this food and dining imagery made you hungry? Good. Come to the feast. Come to the table of plenty.