TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – YEAR C
Yesterday I was listening to the radio broadcast, “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” as I was driving back from the lake. One of the guests was Jose Andres, the celebrity chef. And I was festinated by his story.
After Hurricane Maria devastated and virtually paralyzed Puerto Rico in September 2017, local and federal officials were having trouble getting to entire towns and cities that had been plunged into darkness and cut off from highways and communication. Yet Andrés went to the island, organized 19,000 volunteers in 25 makeshift kitchens and served over 3.5 million meals through one of the hardest years in the island’s history. Now, Andrés is focused on Puerto Rico’s recovery; this month World Central Kitchen announced it would commit $4 million to its Plow to Plate Initiative, aimed at increasing the island’s food security and sustainability by supporting farmers and local food businesses.
As Hurricane Dorian hovers in the Atlantic threatening the Bahamas and much of the east coast of our own country, we may very will need men and women like Andres, can-do people who readily take charge of a potential catastrophic situation, mobilizing resources, motivating workers, and – most importantly – bring hope into a potentially hopeless situation. They are people who do what Jesus suggests in the Gospel today: inviting the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and the simply hungry – the very people who can never repay their host or hostess
But, even apart from massive relief efforts in the face of natural disasters – situations in which heroes and heroines such as Jose Andres give free rein to their creative powers, the challenge to feed, to nourish, to give, to minister without any thought of remuneration is built into our religious commitment. It can prove to be the very thing that promotes understanding and cooperation among peoples of varied ethnic, religious, political and age groups.
The Letter to the Hebrews today talks about a festal gathering in the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. There our God will full pour forth his blessing and gifts upon all who answer the summons to the banquet that brings together angels and saints, and our Savior Jesus in his presence. That gathering will be the crowning glory of the love of our heavenly Father who has redeemed us by the sprinkled blood of his Beloved Son.
How can we ever repay our gracious God for such a gift? Of course, there is no way that we can ever hope to do that. But there are some things that we can do. The Scripture readings for these summer months have returned again and again to the theme of hospitality. We may not be able to offer hospitality on the scale of Jose Andres. But we can take part in the unceasing effort to feed the hungry, get aid to disaster victims, find creative ways to meet the multifaceted needs and hungers of our own community. We can reflect on the consequences of leaving migrants languishing on our doorstep in squalid conditions and pressure out national leaders to develop a humane, just, and effective immigration policy for the future, while attending to immediate needs. We can pray for more gifted and gifting men and women such as Jose Andres.
There may be one more thing we can do. What is it? Wait, wait, don’t tell me. It is precisely what we are doing here now. The Psalmist sang, “How can I make a return to the Lord for his goodness to me? I take up the cup of salvation and call upo9n the name of the Lord.” Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.