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    A View from the Pew

    A moment of temporary insanity - or not? 

    A moment of temporary insanity – or not?

    A woman walked into my dad’s room to collect his laundry. Within minutes of meeting her, I learned that the bank repossessed her car. She worked seven days a week to make ends meet for her family. She depended on rides from others to make her work shift that began at 6am and ended at 2pm, when she picked up her grandchild in her permanent custody. Her husband would begin to work again that week after a ten month lay-off. However, their daily living in rent, food and other necessities swallowed all of their fiscal resources; she could not afford to re-acquire her car. She wept. My heart broke.

    I heard myself saying to the woman, “I will give you the money.” With the speed of sound, my mind shot through the insanity of what I just promised.  “What are you thinking?! You didn’t even discuss this with Pat and you just offered this stranger money? Have you lost your mind?” A breather came when I realized where the resource would come from. I canceled out of the NPM convention last week. I financed my own trip but withdrew from attending the conference because of my dad’s recent illness. I reasoned with myself. “That’s the cash reserve that I’ll use to do this.” However, the lingering question of why I did such an impulsive thing bugged me. Was it a moment of temporary insanity?

    “It’s a miracle!” the woman exclaimed and she cried in obvious relief. She told me that she would discuss my offer with her husband and let me know if they would accept the offer. The woman called me the next day to accept the offer with such great humility that I was completely embarrassed. The woman said that she and her husband knew that their prayers had been answered. “It’s a miracle,” she repeated over and over again. “We just cannot believe that this has happened to us.” But what exactly was the miracle?

    I think that a miracle is something really ordinary happening at exactly the time that you need the event to occur. My husband ‘got it’ right away: but for the grace of God go we. These people could be and are any of us at any given time in our lives. Let’s face it. We can pity, empathize and partner with one another throughout daily hardships. We can rally throughout tough political climates and economic cultural shifts with prayers of encouragement and words of hope. We can attend to the sick, bolster the weary and sing God’s praise with all of our best energies. But until we enter the lives of the poor in a very real way, we may very well deprive ourselves of what the liturgy wants to give us the most: intimacy with a living God who wants to break into our lives through our giving, our being and our generosity. That means using all of the resources at our disposal. The ‘ouch’ factor may be that we will go without some of our own creature comforts to insure that those who do not possess basic necessities share the feast of life. Unless we use our own resources to make someone’s life a bit easier, even when that seems impossible and the resources draw upon what we need for our own immediate needs, than we hum a hollow tune. The hand of the Lord feeds us and answers all our needs through our interaction as human community. I don’t know about you but I find it very hard to concentrate on my spiritual life when I’m really hungry or wonder how I will pay rent or the mortgage, pay bills or worry that someone I know is sick and lacks health care benefits.

    What happened when Jesus fed the colossal crowd in John’s gospel? What was the ‘real’ miracle? First, understand the size of the multitude by reading Matthew’s account of this gospel. (14:13-21). “Those who ate were about five thousand, not counting women and children.” When you factor in those not counted as the majority of the crowd, the colossal mob who followed Jesus probably exceeded thirty five thousand. Who first expresses concern that this mass of people will go hungry? Jesus. I think of the mob as the hungry world. Jesus does not eat first. Nor does he tell his disciples to eat, drink and be merry and then take care of the people after their own bellies are fat and full. Jesus instructs the disciples to organize the crowd. He breaks a boy’s loaf of bread and shares the few fish at his disposal with the people seated near him. The action is really just that simple. And I think that these thousands of people who feasted on Jesus' words all day were in the state of heart and mind to share their food with one another. Everyone shared. Everyone ate. They gathered excess. No one quarreled about who got more or argues about who held out on their food stores. Everyone was satisfied. That’s the miracle – an ordinary moment turnedinto an extraordinary event because Jesus moves us in a way that no one else can. We need to tune in daily to fully live the gospel with all of its implications.

    Could God multiply loaves and fish through Jesus? Sure. Is my version the way the event occurred? I don’t know; I wasn’t there. But I do know that the woman that we assisted visits my father often. I am invited to their home to meet their family and share their table. We’ve come to know one another and share our stories. I rejoice that her tears have turned to laughter as she praises God for the ‘miracle’ of our encounter in the right time and right place. To me, that’s the true miracle of liturgy: God’s befriending hand feeding us as we celebrate the banquet feast of life through our living out the paschal mystery of faith in our daily living.

    May your food baskets always be plentiful and may you never fear to share them. Be the miracle.