So often I find myself (and hear others too) saying,
"I haven't had a bite to eat for ages."
"I'm so hungry I could eat anything."
The same cannot be said of many of our neighbors. New Mexico has the second highest food insecurity rate in the country. (One out of every five New Mexicans suffers from food insecurity.) Daily, people in our community and throughout the state skip meals in order to pay the rent, buy the gas, get the medicine they need, have food for their children. To make ends meet and to fill their bellies, our fellow New Mexicans turn to food pantries like Casa San Miguel and free meals like those served six days a week at St. Martin's Hospitality Center. Often that bag of groceries or that hot meal makes the difference between being famished and being fed. The food you bring each week and place in the basket at the altar and the food you serve every other month on Sundays at St. Martin's makes a real difference in the lives of the people in our community.
Not long ago, one of my friends from St. Martin's gave me a call. His monthly bus pass had run out. His fridge was empty. His EBT (food stamp) card was out of funds. He needed a ride to St. Martin's and maybe some help with groceries to carry him through to the end of the month. That call underscored for me the importance of the feeding work we do.
That call also shifted the way I heard the Gospel message. It made me take another look at those feeding stories. I'd always read them as miracle stories demonstrating Jesus' power or the power unleashed in Jesus' presence. But after getting that phone call, I began to wonder. Could it be that hunger was as pressing a need in Jesus' day as it is in our own? Is it possible that when Jesus says "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness" he's talking about those who demand a righteousness that insures that all who are hungry are fed?
Not long after I started at St. Martin's, I encountered a family with four kids. The mother and the kids lived at Joy Junction. The father shared a room with his brother. He didn't dare bring his kids to his place. His brother was deeply into drugs. When I sat down to talk with him, his eyes were flooded with tears. He said to me, "I'm not sure we can keep the kids. This is no way for them to grow up." He went on to say, "I'm such a failure as a father." In my naivete I responded by saying, "It's so clear you love your kids." What he needed was concrete help--help in getting a job, help in getting a place for his family, help in feeding his kids. Help so that he could be the dad he wanted to be.
Painted on the outside wall of St. Martin's are scenes from Matthew 25: 35. Over each scene are words from that Gospel passage.
"Christ has no body but yours"
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world....
Christ has no body now on earth but yours."