25 July 2021. 17th Sunday OT. Cycle B-2021. 2Kings 4:42-44 + Ephesians 4:1-6 + John 6:1-15

Then Jesus took the [five] loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted (Jn 6:11; 2Kgs 4:44).

Critics of Catholic feeding programs often point out that self-sufficiency rather than piece meal feeding alleviates hunger.

A critic of Mother Teresa asked her why she would focus so much effort on feeding the poor when that approach hardly dented the gargantuan world poverty. The critic even quoted to her the proverb, “Give them fish and they eat for a day. Teach them to fish and they eat for a lifetime.”

She answered her critic, “I give them fish for today to relieve their hunger. When they are strong enough, I turn them over to you so you can teach them to fish.”

She was right. Christianity was not the force to alleviate physical hunger, but the force to alleviate spiritual hunger.

“We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless,” Mother Teresa once said. “The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty.”

Feeding the poor, clothing the poor, tending the poor, and embracing the poor were all parts of Mother Teresa’s program of showing that the poor mattered. Christ did teach His disciples that setting up loftiness mattered as much as settling lowliness. After all man was made of both body and soul.

The world, actually, tried to alleviate poverty by feeding the poor, in the same approach that Mother Teresa did.

The USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides free food monthly to indigent families.

In Michigan the benefit is electronically transferred (EBT) to what is locally known as the “Bridge Card” because it carries on its front face the picture of Michigan’s Mackinac Bridge.

The “Bridge Card” is supposed to be just that — a bridge on which an indigent family can cross from a life of poverty to a life of self-sufficiency. It is a government-provided fish to strengthen enough the poor until they learn how to fish.

Lest the world loses focus in its quest to alleviate hunger, Jesus, who had the power to alleviate both physical and spiritual hunger, cautioned the world, “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life which the Son of Man will give you” (John 6:27). VSS

Picture credit: Feeding the poor in Calcutta, India by Deccan Chronicle. The Michigan Bridge Card by foodstampsebt.com.