I awkwardly smiled at the man standing on the median of a busy street and said, “I’m really sorry man. I don’t have anything I can give you, but I hope you have a great day and everything works out.” He looked at me and scornfully replied, “Why the hell would you roll your window down and spew that BS if you can’t actually help me out?”
Looking back at the experience, I realized that my actions were more about assuaging my own guilt rather than truly pouring out love for that man. I didn’t have cash; but even if I had the five dollars to give that man, my response would have been incomplete. My gift would have lacked solidarity.
Earlier in John 6, Jesus breaks five barley loaves (a poor-man’s grain) and two fish. Through the miraculous gift of Christ, all ate plentifully. But the gift of Christ doesn’t stop there.
In Sunday’s Gospel, John presents the heart of the Eucharist. Jesus does not simply give food that will fill bellies; but rather He gives the gift of Himself as well. He welcomes the discomfort of crowds, criticism, and sacrifice. Christ gives the both-and gift of the Eucharist – both the food and love we truly need.
The Eucharist reminds us to live in solidarity. We cannot simply eat, but must do so with companionship, compassion, and as Paul states: “filled with the Spirit.” As I read Sunday’s Gospel message, I am reminded of the words of Pedro Arrupe: “These are our brothers and sisters and we are bound to them by the Eucharist.” The Eucharist must draw us into greater community and solidarity, transforming our hearts to be like that of Christ – willing to sit and share a meal, community, and gratitude for the gifts of God.
Br. Ken is a Jesuit of the Midwest Province. He is a doctoral candidate in U.S. history at Georgetown University, studying the Jesuits and the labor movement.