Several themes have been coming up for me lately in a variety of places: the meaning of the Eucharist, the ideas of scarcity and abundance, what it means to have enough, and what it means to give.
The lectionary text for this last Sunday was the passage in Luke 7:1-10 about the feeding of the five thousand. It's a story that I've heard a lot, especially growing up in the church. In my childhood the emphasis was on Jesus doing a miracle, in the liberal church it's been more about the importance of sharing. I like the interpretation of sharing, but it always seemed at least somewhat thin.
On Sunday I visited a Catholic intentional Eucharistic community. It's a place that separated themselves from the Roman Catholic church and everything there is lay led. This Sunday, one woman led the children's message on the passage and then did a very, very short homily and asked us all to think about what resonated for us in the passage. Then she invited people to share. Now, asking a room of 200 people to share their thoughts is risky, and I have to admit that I was already dreading it. I didn't think I would hear anything that I hadn't heard a million times before but I was surprised.
In the silence before she opened up the floor I was thinking, I wonder why Jesus had the people sit down in groups of 50? There must be a reason for the number. I was making mental notes to go home and research the exact meaning of 50 (this is what happens when a preacher goes to church). Then people started to share. It started off with the usual stuff and then someone spoke and it was a lightbulb moment for me. She said, "Jesus sat them down in groups of 50 because if you're in a group of 50 you can't hold back." Yes! That's it!
At Camp Osiris we talked a lot about the radical implications of following Jesus, about what it would mean for us if Jesus really meant "sell all you have and give it to the poor". We were talking about how if everyone was that committed it would make a real difference in the world and someone said, "what if I go all in and no one else does?" And that's the question, right? If I give everything I have, will I still be taken care of?
People often criticize me when I say that it's not the job of politicians to take care of people: it's the job of the church. They say "we can't take care of everyone, the need is too great". But often in the church we don't know our neighbors or our community. We don't even know the people sitting next to us in the pew.
Put them in groups of 50. If you're in a group of 50 you can't hold back. You can't hold back because in a group of 50 you're not denying food to a stranger you're denying it to your neighbor, to a member of your community, to someone in your family. You can't deny them because you know them.
Someone else in that service on Sunday said, we need to operate out of abundance, if we all share we'll all have enough. And then someone else read this quote from Dorothy Day: “We cannot love God unless we love each other, and to love we must know each other. We know Him in the breaking of bread, and we know each other in the breaking of bread, and we are not alone anymore. Heaven is a banquet and life is a banquet, too, even with a crust, where there is companionship.”
― Dorothy Day, The Long Loneliness: The Autobiography of the Legendary Catholic Social Activist
The power of the Eucharist is that it trains us to share. It trains us to think of ourselves (and of everyone else) as part of the Body of Christ. We break bread together, we break bread with our family, we don't hold back, we go all in because we know that we'll be cared for. That is the real miracle and that is where the power is.
Did you miss the announcement of the new project I'm working on? Check it out!