BY MADDIE LAFORGE | April 17, 2020
As these days are unfolding, I notice a great hunger within and among us: A hunger for connectedness, a hunger for consolation. I see people yearning, searching for live streamed masses and online prayer groups. There is indeed a great spiritual hunger among us in these frightening and disorienting times. I also see physical hunger, the kind of suffering that hits you in the gut. Facing the precariousness of poverty puts a pit in your stomach. That pit makes me feel empty, or it fills with disbelief. Many people are unemployed, unhoused, or experiencing food insecurity…even for the first time. It could so easily happen to me.
This pandemic swirled up the epidemics of poverty and loneliness in our country. Once, they bubbled below the surface. Now, here they are flying wildly around us. We are forced to see the suffering in our world, the poverty and loneliness. We face the pit; we feel the emptiness and the disbelief. We know there must be another way.
We know this because we have seen it. Jesus revealed another way of being, and he gave us the Eucharist so that we could see it again and again. Our friend knows us well. He knew we would need reminding. So, each Sunday we hear it again. Jesus welcomed the stranger; he healed the sick; he offered mercy and forgiveness. His friends, his disciples, followed him. Each Sunday, we are reminded that Jesus broke bread and ate it—and not just with his friends. He ate with the homeless, with women and children, with sinners, with the unclean. Each Sunday, we are welcomed to the table. We imagine the possibility of a world characterized by love and mercy, and we commit ourselves to living this way. Each Sunday we experience a conversion.
Then, we go forth in peace to love and serve the Lord. The Eucharist is the source and summit of our Catholic faith, but the miracle is not just in the bread. The miracle is also in the transformation, in the love and service that we share with the world. I see this miracle alive in creativity and care. Volunteers make sure food banks do not close their doors. Neighbors care for the sick and shut-ins. Friends and families come together virtually to pray and to break bread. We slow down, quiet ourselves, and get to know God again.Our deepest longings, our stubborn faith, our radical hope…all tell us that there is another way. God gives us the Graces—the courage, the generosity, and the creativity—to respond to the hunger in our world and in ourselves. Sometimes the command to feed my sheep feels overwhelming, given the storm swirling around us. But sometimes it unlocks a life-giving force within us. This nourishing spirit brings forth our best selves, all our love and service. This spirit comforts the fear and uncertainty clamoring inside us. This spirit inspires us to dream, to imagine the possibility of another way of being.
Right now, everything is broken.
But we don’t have to go back.
The God living within and among us helps us
We have before us an opportunity to live differently, to get to know God, ourselves and our neighbors in new ways. How are we nourishing ourselves spiritually? What spiritual practices are we cultivating and discovering? How are we nourishing others? What are the concrete needs of God’s people…and how is God inviting us to respond?
Maddie LaForge is a current M.Div. student at the Jesuit School of Theology. Her current areas of interest are Christian social ethics and pastoral theology. Prior to JST, Maddie graduated from Spring Hill College, majoring in theology and psychology. She also served as a Jesuit volunteer in Tacna, Peru from 2015-2017.