God appears irrational—punishing all of humanity because of the actions of two. Today’s Psalm and Gospel, however, are confusing in light of the first reading. Can’t God make up God’s mind? Does God want to banish us from paradise so we must toil endlessly to meet our basic needs, or is God our “refuge,” the one who is moved by our suffering and wants to “satisfy” us?
Because of my privileged position in the world, I find myself unable to answer. I don’t have to toil to meet my basic needs of food, water, and shelter. I don’t have daily hunger pangs. Am I lucky enough to be in the culture that finally got it right- that after hundreds of thousands of years of trial and error, humanity finally evolved into us? Are we living in the new Garden of Eden as many no longer have to suffer the consequences of the Original Sin in these ways? Millions have found (or been born into) lives that are not in line with the consequences detailed in Genesis.
Furthermore, we seem to be continuing where Adam and Eve left off: possessing the power of God. We have the ability, technology, and resources to “multiply loaves” more efficiently and on a much larger scale than Jesus ever did. Four thousand? Now we do it by the millions. Any one of us can flip a switch to accomplish what Jesus did as one of his greatest miracles.
When our students arrive in the Dominican Republic for Encuentro Dominicano, they are hungry for something, even though its description evades them. For four months, they form relationships with campesinos who have nothing to offer but the food for which they toil endlessly in the fields, with children who attend school in the morning before returning to the trash dump to dig for bottles to sell in the afternoon, and with the elderly whose only desire is to not die alone.
In these relationships with the Dominican poor, we are powerless. We find ourselves vulnerable. We who seem to have everything are given a plate of rice, more than the rest of our Dominican hosts, and we realize that we are, indeed, naked in light of such hospitality and love.
We are naked when we struggle to help an elderly woman who has bedsores as a result of not being moved in days, because when she grabs our hand, she knows that someone is with her, sharing in her brokenness. We are naked when we can’t help the boy with lice do his homework only because we don’t know the words to say in Spanish, for when he smiles and looks into our eyes, no words are needed to understand his gratitude for our mere presence.
More than ever, we are hungry for what Christ offers us through his presence in these people. Our hearts are moved, and we realize that for all of humanity’s accomplishments, this is the true power of God. This is what satisfies, satiates, quenches, and fills.
In the end, we find we are still suffering the consequences of sin. We realize that the suffering we witness here is humanity’s fault, not God’s, but we are also witnesses to and recipients of the daily miracles of multiplication. We are welcomed to the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the loaves by the Dominican poor. That for which we are hungry is multiplied in our very presence.
Our baskets are overflowing.
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