“You shall eat like those in flight,” God tells Moses and Aaron.
Imagine this: it is 6 in the morning, in a room packed with splintering bunk beds and plastic folding chairs. Women and children are lining up for food. This shelter expects them to depart within the next two hours, and will not unlock again until the afternoon. They must take a bus across town to yet another shelter to find protection from the weather, which has snapped, suddenly, back to wet and cold.
Imagine this: there are a dozen of them. A hundred. A thousand. A hundred thousand. Millions, even. They eat like those in flight because they are in flight, from monsoons, typhoons, drought, relentless snow. Poor people on the run eat with furtive motions, curling their arms around their plates protectively. What has happened to the climate, however, they may not be able to outrun.
This night, we recall Jesus’ astonishing decision to kneel before those who followed him and to transfigure himself not into something shining or glorious, but into a woman, a servant, a poor person, a slave. “You ought to wash one another’s feet,” he tells us. The feet that are trying to outrun the damage we have done to this planet, to God’s creation and to one another are filthy, as are our own. Let them cease to run, if only for some moments. Let them be clean. Let us find a way to be clean, again, together.
- Is it possible to outrun the things that are damaging the earth? How can we stop running and turn around to confront them?
- How can we become servants of the environment rather than seeing ourselves as its conquerors?
Kaya Oakes teaches writing at UC Berkeley. Her fourth book, on seeking, doubt, faith and “Nones,” will be published by Orbis Books in 2015. She is a contributing writer to America Magazine, Commonweal, and the National Catholic Reporter, and a contributing editor and writer at the website Killing the Buddha.
Kaya Oakes is the author of four books. She teaches nonfiction writing at UC Berkeley and her essays and journalism have appeared in America, Commonweal, Slate, The New Republic, Foreign Policy, Sojourners, and many other places.