“I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever.” Jesus offers us his body and blood in the Eucharist that feeds us, strengthens us, and welcomes us into eternal life. We celebrate this gift today, on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ.
We all have our hungers. In my ministry on the U.S.-Mexico border, hunger constantly accompanies migrants on their journey and during their wait in northern Mexico. “Tengo hambre!” (“I’m hungry”), a four-year-old boy kept repeating to us one day in a camp of migrants in Matamoros, Mexico. Families like his are spread out along the bank of the Rio Grande River, living in tents made of cardboard and other repurposed materials. They enter a daily lottery through a smartphone app to get access to the U.S. Without a kitchen or stove, migrants in the camp are cooking over fire, making meager rations of tortillas and arepas to feed their families. They hunger for food.
When we visit the camp twice a week as Jesuit priests, we set up an altar on a borrowed table, or sometimes just a wooden board placed on top of buckets. We come to celebrate Mass, right in the middle of the makeshift camp. A single mother with two children will draw near and instruct her kids to fold their hands and pay attention. As people gather around, standing in whatever shade they can find, it’s clear to see another hunger. They come to join in the celebration of the Eucharist because along with their hunger for food, they also hunger for the bread of life. It is so often their faith that helps to sustain them and give them hope in the midst of such deplorable conditions and an indefinite wait. They hunger for God’s grace.After making regular visits to migrant camps, hearing the stories of trauma, and seeing the conditions that people are living in, I too hunger. I hunger for justice. For reform to our broken immigration system that offers few pathways for entry into our country for the poor and suffering. For a more robust humanitarian response to the needs of men, women, and children who are subject to inhumane living conditions. For an opening of hearts and minds in the United States to see migrants not as threats and dangers, but as brothers and sisters. I hunger for justice.
We must always be grateful when we have food on our plate and regular access to the Eucharist. This is not the reality for many people, including so many migrants. Fed by the body and blood of Christ, our faith should compel us forward. We must feel the hunger pangs in the midst of injustice, rise up, and work together for justice.
- What do you hunger for?
- How can you attend to the hunger of others?
Fr. Brian Strassburger, S.J., is a Jesuit priest missioned to the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, to assist in a local parish and accompany migrants on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. He now serves as the executive director of Del Camino Jesuit Border Ministries.